EU sends final warning to Britain over air pollution levels
The European Commission announced Thursday it had sent a final warning to Britain over its failure to comply with EU air quality rules, due to the levels of dangerous airborne particles in London and Gibraltar.
"Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions," said the EU's Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.
"Member States must comply with EU air quality standards quickly and reduce air pollutant emissions," he stressed.
The offending 'PM10' particles in question -- tiny subdivisions of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air -- are emitted mainly by industry, traffic and domestic heating.
Their presence in too high concentrations may, the EU said, lead to asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and even premature death.
According to the latest data provided, "two areas, namely the Greater London urban area and Gibraltar, have exceeded the limits for PM10," the EU Commission said.
Britain sought an exemption to the rule for eight areas, including London and the tiny enclave of Gibraltar attached to Spain, but they were not granted.
The British authorities recently sent a further exemption request for Greater London, which is still under assessment.
Nevertheless, following years of non-compliance, the commission decided to send Britain a "final warning" with the threat of subsequent court action.
If the British authorities fail to take the necessary measures to comply with the EU legislation, the case could be referred to he European Court of Justice.
Britain now has two months to respond to the EU letter, after which court action could ensue if the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is not satisfied with the response.
EU legislation sets binding limits for permitted concentrations of certain pollutants in the air.
© 2010 AFP