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Europe Tightens Air Quality Rules

EU countries adopt new regulations calling for a 20% reduction in air pollution between 2010 and 2020. The directive is designed to simplify current legislation

European governments on Monday (14 April) adopted a new directive that aims to limit the amount of particles in the air that can cause a range of health problems, from asthma to bronchitis.

Under the new directive on air quality, which was approved by environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg, member states are to establish a limit of 25 micrograms per cubic metre on the average concentration of dust particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres.

The new rules require the 27 members of the EU by 2020 to reduce urban air pollution by 20 percent on levels recorded in 2010. This figure is a target value to be attained by January 2010, but will become a binding cap from 2015.

Such particles are emitted from a wide range of sources, including diesel vehicles, industrial facilities and residential fire places. They can have a significant negative impact on human health as they are small enough to be inhaled deeply in the lungs, causing asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, leading to the premature death of some 350,000 EU citizens annually.

The directive simplifies current European legislation on ambient air quality by merging five separate texts into a single legal act.

Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas welcomed the move: "The European Union has today taken a decisive step in tackling a major cause of environmental and health problems."

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