Your right to cleaner air
There is a substantial amount of EU legislation on ambient air quality. Below you can find an overview of the most important laws:
a. Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC)
In 2002, the European Parliament and Council adopted the Sixth Environmental Action Programme (6EAP). The Action Plan’s objective is ’’to achieve a quality of the environment where the levels of man–made contaminants do not give rise to significant impacts on or risks to human health.’’ The programme required the European Commission to prepare a Thematic Strategy on several environmental areas, including air quality.
The Thematic Strategy, which was published in 2005, lays out the environmental objectives in terms of air quality and identifies the most appropriate instruments to achieve these objectives.
In the context of this strategy, the Commission drafted a new Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe. This Directive entered into force June 2008 and will be transposed into national legislation by June 2010.
This new Directive merges several older pieces of legislation. It sets concentration limit values and target values  for the main air pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide, coarse particulate matter (‘PM10’), carbon monoxide, ozone, benzene, lead and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. The law also requires the monitoring of a number of air pollutants and the dissemination of this information to the public, specifically susceptible groups. If Member States exceed their target values, they are obliged to set up abatement action plans and inform and consult with the public on these plans. Local air pollution control actions plans are also a requirement under EU law.
One new element in the Directive is that it introduces limit and target values for PM2.5 (dust of a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers). These extremely small particles are a particular cause for concern as they can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause damage there.
b. National Emission Ceilings
This Directive sets national emission ceilings for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds, which must be achieved by 2010. The ceilings are reviewed periodically.
More information can be found here
c. Sectoral emission laws
Several EU laws regulate emissions from different sources, including vehicles and non-road machinery, large combustion plants and industrial processes (the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive), the use of solvents and solvent-containing products, and the sulphur contents of liquid fuels.
More information on EU air quality legislation can be found on the following websites: