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Members of the European Parliament have adopted a codecision report on a directive on the quality of ambient air and have called for more ambitious targets for cutting pollutants than originally suggested by the European Commission.
The Parliament also called for more flexibility in achieving the targets. This is to allow member states, areas and cities which have problems meeting the criteria more time to adjust.
The Parliament stated this week, however, that this will not let polluting cities and areas off the hook.
"There will be safeguards to ensure that member states take the measures needed to reduce pollution," it said in a statement.
According to the European Union, recent surveys suggest that air pollution contributes indirectly to over 360,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. The most affected regions are big cities and industrial areas.
To tackle the problem, the E.C. launched in 2005 a strategy based on scientific research to reduce the air contamination death toll by 40% by 2020.
The report adopted this week was drafted by German Liberal Member of European Parliament Mr Holger Krahmer. It calls for stricter limits for small particles that cause.
The report states that the biggest health threat is posed by the so called micro-particles "PM25", known more commonly as "atmospheric dust". Its concentration levels have not yet been regulated by E.U. legislation.
Dutch Socialist MEP Ms Dorette Corbey also presented an own-initiative report on EU air-pollution strategy that calls for a cut in nitrogen oxides level as well as a focus on pollution sources.