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Scientists call for tighter air quality laws

A group of top German research scientists have called call for new measures to be included in the European Air Quality Directive

Scientists have called for European legislation around air quality to be ‘tightened’ and argued that the sector needs major investment in research to shed more light on the impacts of poor air quality on Europe’s population.

Scientists discussed the future of EU Air Quality legislation at the session in Brussels on Tuesday (May 14)

These were among the comments made during a panel debate at a conference titled ‘Frontline Research for Improved Air Quality and Climate Action’, in Brussels on Tuesday (May 14). The session was organised by the Dresden-based Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS).

The European Commission is currently reviewing its air quality policies, and scientists have called for more stringent targets in order for Member States that are currently breaching ambient air quality levels to recover.

Speaking at the conference, Professor Hartmut Herrmann, said: “We are consistent with the call for a review of the Directive, which aims at limiting the value for the mass concentration of ultra fine aerosol particles (PM2.5) to 20 μg/m3 from 2013 onwards. By 2020, the limit value of 20 μg/m3 could become binding. This is realistic and should therefore be the objective.

“The precondition would be a consequent reduction of particulate carbon from combustion sources.”

Carbon

Meanwhile, Professor Alfred Wiedensohler of TROPOS, added that a target for reducing black carbon and elemental carbon should also be included in any updates to the Directive.

He said: “We have indications that low emission zones can reduce the mass concentration of soot in the particulate matter. Setting a target value would be a valuable step into the right direction. Should further measures become necessary, a legally binding value along with requirements for monitoring could follow later on.

“Particle emissions leading to increased soot mass concentrations in urban areas should strategically be reduced in the long term. Further toxicological and epidemiological studies are needed.”

Both scientists also recommended setting a legally binding limit value for ground level ozone as well as the establishment of a legally binding ozone limiting value at the current level of target values in order to curb high ozone levels in urban areas.

Calls for changes to the Air Quality Directive were also made by German MEP Holger Krahmer, who said that the legislation required ‘steady improvement’.

Speaking earlier at the event, Mr Krahmer, said: “The current system of improving air quality underlying the air quality directive needs to be improved steadily in accordance to achieve long-term targets such as the reduction of major pollution sources like NOx and SOx and their compounds. Nevertheless, the thresholds always have to cope with reality and thus can only be fulfilled if one has the means to cope with the causes and not just with its effects.”

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