Particulate matter: Swiss Federal Commission for Air Hygiene recommends additional air quality standard to protect against harmful effects on health
Bern, 19 March 2014 - The Swiss Federal Commission for Air Hygiene has summarised and evaluated the latest research findings on adverse effects of ambient particulate matter on human health. In its report it recommends incorporating an additional ambient air quality standard for smaller particulate matter (PM2.5) into the Ordinance on Air Pollution Control (OAPC).
Seven years after its previous report on particulate matter, the Swiss Federal Commission for Air Hygiene FCAH has again examined and evaluated the situation with respect to the effects of exposure to ambient particulate matter in Switzerland. It acknowledges the notable progress Switzerland has made in reducing the level of ambient particulate matter in the past few years.
The report entitled “Particulate matter in Switzerland in 2013” takes into account the latest European health research findings, including the “Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases in Adults (SAPALDIA)”. The findings show that, even at the present-day level, air pollution causes disease and death. Evidence has also been found regarding the harmful effects on health of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), as well as of soot. Unlike in many other countries, PM2.5 is not yet regulated separately in Switzerland.
In accordance with the Swiss Federal Environmental Protection Act, ambient air quality standards have to be specified to protect the health of the population. The Federal Commission for Air Hygiene recommends the introduction of an ambient air quality standard for PM2.5 in addition to the already existing air quality standards for PM10. It is calling for the level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be incorporated into the Swiss Federal Ordinance on Air Pollution Control (OAPC) as an annual mean limit level. It also recommends the specification of a binding target for the reduction of carcinogenic soot by 80 percent in the next 10 years.
The proposed ambient air quality standard represents a strengthening of the existing air pollution control strategy, not a change of direction. In order to comply with the specified air quality standard, further reductions of pollutant emissions at sources will be necessary. With the introduction of the planned Euro standards for motor vehicles, emissions of particulate matter, including soot and precursor gases, will be significantly reduced again. Improvements are also necessary with respect to wood-fired stoves, which are one of the main sources of particulate matter, as well as various other sources.
Further information: Professor Dr. N. Künzli, President of the Swiss Federal Commission for Air Hygiene (phone number, 061 284 83 99 or 079 535 85 25).