More effort needed to reduce summer ozone

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sole ozono

Ground level ozone causes health problems, decreases crop yields and damages the environment. Ozone levels exceeding certain targets in Europe were less frequent in summer 2011 than in any year since monitoring started in 1997. However, the long-term objective was exceeded in all EU Member States and it is likely many of them will not meet the target value, applicable as of 2010

Il nuovo rapporto dell’Agenzia europea dell’ambiente riguarda la situazione di inquinamento da ozono a livello del suolo in Europa durante l’estate 2011. I limiti massimi sono stati superati in gran parte dei paesi d’Europa ed in particolare in Austria, Belgio, Bulgaria, Cipro, Republica Ceca, Francia, Germania, Grecia, Ungheria, Italia, Lussemburgo, Malta, Polonia, Portogallo, Slovacchia, Slovenia e Spagna. La situazione in Italia è, comunque, fra le peggiori nell’Unione europea come dimostrano alcune tabelle dell’Annesso 3 al rapporto.

Il problema dell’inquinamento da ozono in Europa non mostra significativi miglioramenti rispetto al passato. Siccome l’ozono è un inquinante secondario prodotto da processi fotochimici, è necessario eliminare i precursori come gli ossidi di azoto ed i composti organici volatili. In vista della prossima stagione estiva l’Aea raccomanda (e chiede) che siano effettuati sforzi più efficaci per ridurre tali emissioni ed eliminare, quindi, questi precursori.

«In summer 2011, exceedances of ozone targets were lower than average», EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said. «But it is still one of the most serious air pollutants in Europe. Air pollution affects people’s quality of life».

Ozone can cause respiratory problems and other severe health problems.

Ground level ozone production depends on weather conditions such as solar intensity and temperature, and is a result of chemical reactions between other pollutants in the air. These include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane and non-methane volatile organic compounds. These substances are emitted by industry, transport, agriculture and other sources.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) publishes an annual report on summer ozone levels. The 2012 report, covering April to September 2011, was based on data from 2 186 monitoring sites across Europe.

Main findings of the report

  • In the summer of 2011, the ?information threshold’ and the ?long term objective’ (LTO) for the protection of human health were both exceeded in the lowest proportion of air monitoring stations since the start of comprehensive Europe-wide data reporting in 1997. This reduction was mainly due to unusually low temperatures and increased rainfall during the summer months, although there have also been some reductions in the emissions of ozone-precursor pollutants.

  • The information threshold (a one-hour ozone concentration of 180 ?g/m3) was exceeded at monitoring sites in 16 EU Member States and four non-member countries. The information threshold was exceeded at approximately 18 % of all operational stations. Only northern Italy and several more isolated locations reported a substantial number of exceedances.

  • As in previous years, the LTO for the protection of human health (maximum daily eight-hour mean concentration of 120 ?g/m3) was exceeded in all EU Member States. These exceedances were registered at approximately 84 % of all operational stations. This limit was exceeded on more than 25 days in a significant part of Europe.