The European Commission has launched a three-year probe aimed at combating air pollution and reducing pollution-induced health problems in Europe.
The "Clean Air for Europe" (CAFE) program focuses especially on particulate matter and ground-level ozone, which have been identified as the pollutants of greatest concern.
"We have come a long way in reducing air pollution, but we have not yet achieved our final objective, that is to make sure that everybody in Europe, even those who are particularly vulnerable to bad air, can breathe freely without being concerned about their health," said Margot Wallstrom, EU environment commissioner. "Clean Air for Europe should provide us the means for attaining this objective."
There is a growing body of evidence showing that even small concentrations of tiny dust particles adversely effect human health, causing premature deaths and reducing the quality of life by aggravating respiratory conditions such as asthma.
What is not known is exactly how it causes these effects and what type of particulates cause these effects, said the commission.
Many of the existing air quality directives contain clauses requiring them to be reviewed by 2004, and the commission believes an integrated program is the best way to prepare of this.
The intention is that CAFE will evolve into an ongoing, cyclical program of which 2004 will only be the first milestone, Wallstrom said.
by Virginia Sutcliffe