EU’s top court says Poland breached air pollution rules

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s top court on Thursday said Poland had failed to uphold air quality standards, part of a wider battle by the EU to reduce deaths from airborne pollution which it estimates kills 400,000 people every year.

The European Commission took Poland to court over its slow response in addressing the issue of poor air quality caused by extensive coal-burning in homes, which makes Poland’s air the most polluted in Europe.

Siding with the Commission, the European Court of Justice ruled the limits in place to regulate the amount of pollutants in the air had been “persistently exceeded.”

The air contained too much PM10, particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers, which can damage health if breathed in.

Logged stub and trees are seen at one of the last primeval forests in Europe, Bialowieza forest, near Bialowieza village, Poland February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Not only did Poland exceed the daily legal amount of pollutants in 35 of its 46 “air quality zones,” nine of those zones failed an inspection of the annual legal limit as well, the court said.

Bulgaria faced similar charges in April 2017, despite the European Commission’s pressure on countries to reduce pollutants.

Last month, the European Commission warned nine other member states, including Germany and the United Kingdom, that it could take legal action if they did not present “additional credible, timely and effective measures” to tackle air pollutants.

All have submitted information to be evaluated, according to a Commission spokesman.

Targets introduced to reduce the amount of pollutants for 2005 and 2010 are being exceeded in 23 of the EU’s 28 members.

Reporting by Samantha Koester; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Janet Lawrence

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