European Commission Begins Legal Action Against the UK Over Air Pollution Failures

29.1.2009   (Environmental Protection press release)

The European Commission today began legal proceedings2 against the UK for failing to meet standards for airborne particles (PM10) that are highly damaging to human health.

“The UK Government has shown no urgency in meeting their air pollution obligations,
and the health of the nation has suffered as a result”, said Ed Dearnley, Policy
Officer at Environmental Protection UK,     “The failure to make hard decisions
and take meaningful action on existing air pollution obligations does not bode
well for meeting our new targets for emissions under the Climate Change Act3, which present a far greater challenge than the air pollution targets that we
have failed to meet”

The action comes after the UK failed to meet legally binding EU limits that came
into force during 2005, and missed an October 2008 deadline to submit an application
for a time extension for meeting the limits, as allowed under EU rules. This week
the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs began a consultation4 on the UK’s time extension application, in the hope that the Commission’s legal
action can be nipped in the bud.

PM10 is strongly associated with premature death and cardiovascular disease. Its
main source is road vehicles, and measures that can be taken to tackle it include
Low Emission Zones (as seen in London) and large scale programmes to fit exhaust
filters to buses and heavy goods vehicles. Pro-active action on measures such
as these has largely been left to local authorities and as voluntary measures
in the UK, with central Government ruling out national schemes on cost grounds.

More: Ed Dearnley 01273 878781 / 07872 376500

Notes for Editors

  1. Environmental Protection UK is the environmental protection charity supported
    by pollution control professionals. We have been working for a cleaner, quieter,
    healthier world since 1898.
  2. The European Commission has started infringement proceedings against 10 Member
    States, including the UK, for failing to comply with the EU’s air quality standard
    for PM10. The Commission’s action follows the entry into force last June of the new EU
    air quality directive, which allows Member States to request, under certain conditions
    and for specific parts of the country, limited extra time to meet the PM10 standard
    in force since 2005. See the
    EU Commission’s press release 
  3. The Climate Change Act commits the UK to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 over 1990 levels. Achieving this target will take radical
    action on transport, electricity generation and heat production far beyond the
    measures taken to combat air pollution over past decades.
  4. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs began a consultation on
    the UK’s draft time extension notification to the European Commission on the 27th
    January. Their intention is to secure, for eight areas across the UK, an exemption
    from the obligation to apply the limit values for particulate matter until 2011,
    as provided for under the new Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC). The
    consultation closes on the 10th March 2009, and the notification to the European
    Commission is expected shortly afterwards. The European Commission’s deadline
    for submitting a notification was the 31st October 2008. See
    Details of the consultation 





Much of the PM10 pollution from planes comes from tyres and brakes.



Brakes and tyres

119. One of the main sources of primary PM10 emissions from aircraft is considered to be the wheel brake pads and tyres.
PM10 emissions from tyres and brakes are dependent on many factors including aircraft
weight, number of wheels, brake material (carbon or steel) weather conditions,
engine type, pilot actions and airline procedures. However, combinations of these
dependencies are largely unknown and a more straightforward approach needs to
be adopted in order to predict these emissions from the Heathrow aircraft fleet.

120. Based on work carried out by netcen, originally for Stansted Airport, data
has been gathered for a limited number of aircraft brake and tyre wear rates,
and assumptions were made on the percentage of the eroded material which becomes
suspended as PM10. For brakes, this data gives wear rates in terms of kg wear per landing for
F100/BAe146 and B737 aircraft. For tyres, BA have provided data for A319, A320,
A321, B747, B757, B767 and B777 aircraft. Assuming greater wear is proportional
to landing weight, 15 a relationship has been developed of the form:

and it continues …………    

 ……… on the DfT website



also on the DfT website, on Heathrow, it states:


Particulate matter

The Panel’s principal conclusions in relation to particulate matter were:

  • The general picture is of a regional background PM10 concentration of 21-23 µg/m3,
    which is enhanced by the airport to give a local background of around 25 µg/m3,
    further enhanced close to the motorways to levels of 25-30 µg/m3 and to 27-31
    µg/m3 on the airfield perimeter. The airport and local road thus make only a marginal
    contribution to local concentrations compared with their contributions to NOX.
  • Analysis of the data suggests that sources on the airport are only contributing
    around 1 µg/m3 to annual mean PM10 at the airfield perimeter.