EU tackles national governments over air pollution

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BRUSSELS, Oct 17 (Reuters) European Union regulators initiated legal action against five member states today for having air pollution levels that exceed EU limits and which can cause health problems.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc's executive, said it was starting legal procedures against Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Slovenia for too-high levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a pollutant that can cause breathing difficulties and affect cardiovascular health.

The Commission also said it was asking 23 national governments to submit information on how they would bring down high levels of polluting air particles, called PM10, to EU-approved standards.

It said in a statement that 70 per cent of towns and cities with a population of 250,000 or more in the EU had reported exceeding limits on the particles, which are blamed for causing asthma, heart problems and lung cancer.

''Member states must align themselves with EU standards so that citizens are properly protected,'' Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in the statement.

The Commission's legal procedures can lead to a case being taken to an EU court, which can impose fines for failure to comply with EU law.

Reuters PD GC1643

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