EU investigates UK ‘dust suppressant’ claims

The EU is requesting more information from the UK on its PM10 data for 2011 after suggestions that dust suppressant ‘glue’ was used near some monitoring sites to produce lower readings

The EU is looking into data provided by the UK on particulate matter PM10 levels in the country for 2011, following suggestions from campaign groups that dust suppressants were used to reduce concentrations directly around monitoring sites.

Figures submitted to the EU for 2011 show that the UK is within limits for PM10, but campaign groups such as Clean Air in London have suggested that dust suppressants were used near monitoring stations in some high pollution areas, which resulted in lower readings for the pollutant.

However, Defra denies the dust suppressant claims, stating that “there is no evidence to suggest its use artificially reduces the readings around the monitoring stations.”

The UK's data for 2011 suggested that PM10 levels were not in breach of EU limits

The UK’s data for 2011 suggested that PM10 levels were not in breach of EU limits

A dust suppressant is a glue-like solution which is sprayed on roads and walls on congested streets to pick up dust pollutants. In January 2013, a Transport for London (TfL) report evaluating an expanded trial of a solution called Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) suggested that certain areas of high pollution could benefit from its application (see story).

EU annual mean legal limits for PM10 and nitrogen dioxide are both set at 40 micrograms per cubic metre. For every year that the limits are breached, the UK can face fines of £300 million. Spain has incurred fines for this in the past.

European Commission environment spokesman, Joe Hennon, said: “2011 figures for PM10 provided by the UK were below EU limits – we are basically just asking the UK for information on these figures, as there has obviously been some speculation on them.”

As the air quality figures refer to 2011, he added, the EU’s investigation of the figures was not related to the London 2012 Olympics.

However, when asked if the UK could face infringement fines over the issue, he said: “To say that fines could be given out by the EU, well, that would be a long way away – it would only be much further down the road. Only 2% of EU infringement cases end in fines being handed out and we try to resolve matters before they get to court.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good, and almost all of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants.

“There’s a lot being done to reduce pollution in London, the use of dust suppressants being one. There has been an improvement in air quality in areas where it has been trialled, and there is no evidence to suggest its use artificially reduces the readings around the monitoring stations.”

Nitrogen dioxide

As previously reported on, the UK could also face fines over its failure to meet or put in place new measures for EU nitrogen dioxide targets for 2015, and campaign group ClientEarth has taken the UK government to the Supreme Court over the issue.

ClientEarth are hoping for a judgement on the case to be made before Easter, which could eventually force the government to introduce more stringent measures for UK nitrogen dioxide levels or face infringement fines from the EU.

However, Mr Hennon said that as a number of member states which could be in breach of nitrogen dioxide limits for 2015, infringement cases could well be brought collectively rather than separately.

He said: “There are a number of member states in breach of nitrogen dioxide targets, so if we went down this road, it’s likely that the EU would bring them all together as one case to deal with the issue.”


Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sue Smith
Sue Smith
11 years ago

Oxford…Abingdon Road/Weirs Lane junction. UK.
Many residents in my home area suffer with chronic bronchitis and asthma (self included), and we believe the air pollution is over the 4o limit, but Council stopped monitoring this a few years ago now. What can we do? Action on this seems very slow. We need the monitors now, before Tesco put their new building on the corner where traffic is extremely high already. This really is a serious health issue that has gone on far too long. Have lived here 30 years, but since the High St. has been closed to most traffic, Weirs Lane/Donnington Bridge Road is used as the alternative bye-pass.
Any suggestions apart from reporting to the EU?
Best Wishes, Sue Smith

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top