EU Backs Plan To Clean Up Air, Cut Lung Disease
"The European Union has today taken a decisive step in tackling a major cause of environmental and health problems," European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.
"European citizens are concerned about air pollution. The new directive on air quality addresses this concern by providing ambitious but realistic standards for fine particle ... pollution in the European Union," he said in a statement.
Air pollution can exacerbate asthma and bronchitis, and is blamed for more than 370,000 premature deaths a year in the EU.
The rules approved by the EU's 27 member states and the European Parliament require a 20 percent reduction in concentrations of fine particles in urban areas by 2020 from their levels in 2010.
They also give EU countries more time to meet existing targets for coarser particles. Twenty-five of the 27 EU states are struggling to meet those targets, the statement said.
European business has said the measures should not put too heavy a burden on industry.
In the bloc's more polluted regions, life expectancy is shortened by an average 36 months due to fine particles in the air, a European Commission spokeswoman said.
The measures were first proposed in 2005 in a bid to bring the EU up to par with the United States in capping emissions of particulates, or fine dust.
(Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by Paul Taylor)