Latest data shows Europe is still struggling to tackle ozone pollution

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 07 May 2016 12:38
25 European countries exceeded ozone limits last summer
25 European countries exceeded ozone limits last summer

Ground-level ozone air pollution continued to affect many countries across Europe during the summer of 2014, according to new statistics published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Almost all reporting countries exceeded at least once the long-term objective set by EU legislation, while the stricter alert threshold was exceeded only on four occasions.

Exposure to high concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause and aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The European Union's Air Quality Directive

Concentrations of ground-level ozone significantly exceeded the four standards set out in the European Union’s Air Quality Directive, according to the EEA's latest analysis. However, the number of exceedances was lower than in many previous years, in line with the long-term downward trend observed over the last 25 years.

Depending on which threshold is exceeded, authorities in the affected areas and countries have to take specific measures. For example, exceeding the information threshold triggers an obligation to inform the population on possible risks, while exceeding the alert threshold requires authorities to take immediate action.

Key facts – summer ozone 2014

Measurements were reported from 1607 monitoring stations across 30 European countries.

* Approximately 80% of these stations recorded at least one exceedance of the long-term objective between April to September 2014, with exceedances occurring in all reporting countries except Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Romania and Serbia.

* Seven EU Member States - Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Spain - had stations where ozone levels exceeded the long-term objective on more than 25 days. This corresponds to 6% of all reporting stations, affecting approximately 1% of the total population in the reporting countries.

* Averaged over the past three years, 16 countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland - exceeded the 2015 target value.

* Ozone concentrations higher than the information threshold were reported from monitoring stations in 18 countries. No exceedances were reported by Andorra, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Sweden.

* Ozone concentrations higher than the alert threshold were reported only in France, on four occasions.

* Approximately 36% of the exceedances of the information threshold, 75% of exceedances of the alert threshold, and 20% of long-term objective exceedances took place during a single episode of high concentrations between 7 and 14 June 2014.

An 'ozone episode' is defined as 'a period of usually a few days up to two to three weeks with high ozone concentrations, characterised by daily exceedances of the thresholds set to protect human health. Ozone episodes occur under specific meteorological conditions characterised by large stagnant areas of high pressure. Since the formation of ozone requires sunlight, ozone episodes mainly occur during summer'.

Summer 2014 was characterised by very few exceedances with only several days with increased concentrations. One of these episodes occurred between 7 and 14 June, during which approximately 36% of the total number of exceedances of the information threshold, 75% of exceedances of the alert threshold, and 20% of LTO exceedances experienced during the summer took place.

Ozone (O3) is a 'secondary' pollutant formed from gases such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of solar light. Ozone levels typically become particularly high in regions where considerable emissions of these gases combine with stagnant meteorological conditions, high levels of solar radiation and high temperatures during the summer. Summer refers to the period from April to September.

Exposure to high O3 concentrations can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.

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