The Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) includes the objective of ensuring that outdoor air quality in the EU will have improved significantly by 2020, moving closer to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Observing the existing EU air quality legislation standards is a chief milestone in this respect.
Despite some improvements, thanks to the implementation of EU legislation on emissions of air pollutants and air quality, key EU air quality standards for the protection of human health - concentrations of particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - are currently not being met in various air quality monitoring stations in the EU. This is particularly true for urban areas, where more than 70 % of the EU population lives.
This can be mainly attributed to the high level of emissions from road traffic and residential combustion in urban areas and unfavourable conditions for the dispersion of emissions due to topography and meteorological issues. Because of their widespread exceedances in urban areas, it is unlikely that the air quality standards for these pollutants will be met by 2020, while achieving air quality in line with the WHO guidelines is much further away.
It should be noted that in 2015 compared with 2014 there has been more urban population exposed to exceedances of the air quality standards for ozone, nitrogen dioxides and dust particles. Further action will be needed, in particular in relation to road traffic and residential combustion in urban areas.
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