EU panel chides London’s air quality

Bloomberg News / December 12, 2009

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LONDON - The European Commission said yesterday that London’s air is too dirty and rejected a government request to grant more time for the city to comply with rules on dangerous airborne particles.

The city’s air quality plan “didn’t meet the minimum requirements’’ to qualify for an extension until 2011 to reach the particles target, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in an e-mailed statement.

Since 2005, London has exceeded European Union guidelines for airborne particles, or particulate matter, which come mostly from tailpipe emissions from diesel-powered vehicles. The pollutant causes heart and lung diseases and may be responsible for 3,000 early deaths a year, according to a report by the city’s legislative assembly.

The EU decision “is a damning and long-overdue indictment of the UK’s attitude to air pollution, complying with environmental deadlines, and protecting public health,’’ Simon Birkett, head of the Campaign for Clean Air London, said in an e-mail.

The EU could fine the government, though the EU statement didn’t include details of possible penalties. A spokeswoman for the UK Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, said it was disappointed with the EU decision and would work with the city to meet the target.