Knowledge of the health effects of ambient air pollution has been well established for some years now. In Europe, the monitoring strategy for air quality is based on European Directives 2008/50/EC of 21 May 2008 and 2004/107/EC of 15 December 2004. In order to take into account the development of knowledge on pollutants and their emission sources, ANSES received a formal request from the Ministries of Ecology and Health to propose a list of new priority pollutants for the regulatory monitoring of air quality.
The expert appraisal resulted in the development of an original three-step method enabling the heterogeneity of the data associated with air pollutants to be taken into account:
- establishment of a core list of pollutants of interest;
- sorting of the 557 pollutants on this list according to criteria of occurrence in the atmosphere and intrinsic hazards;
- classification of the pollutants identified as priorities.
This expert appraisal work led to a list of 13 priority pollutants. Of these, ANSES stresses the relevance of monitoring 1,3-butadiene, a pollutant emitted in particular by industrial activities using plastic and rubber as well as by motor vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. The Agency also recommends the need to supplement and sustain the acquisition of data on ultrafine particles (UFPs) and carbon black.
Agency conclusions and recommendations
The analysis of the results for the pollutants identified as priorities showed that 1,3-butadiene, classified as a Category 1 carcinogen by the IARC, is targeted by various intermittent measurement campaigns in France in which the TRVis frequently exceeded, regardless of the type of measurement site. The Agency therefore underlines the need for the national monitoring of 1,3-butadiene in ambient air.
Moreover, the Agency insists on the need to supplement and sustain the acquisition of data in ambient air on ultrafine particles (UFPs) and carbon black, and to closely monitor these two substances in the long term given their potential health impacts.
Regarding the 10 other pollutants (manganese, hydrogen sulphide, acrylonitrile, 1,1-2-trichloroethane, copper, trichloroethylene, vanadium, cobalt, antimony and naphthalene), the Agency emphasises that the TRVs can be exceeded in specific contexts (especially industrial) and recommends the acquisition of additional data in order to ensure, among other things, the adequacy of regulatory monitoring for emissions of these pollutants.
The Agency also supports the need to develop a French data bank of existing measurements for ambient air pollutants that are not currently regulated, similar to that available for regulated pollutants, to facilitate access to these data for research and expert appraisal work.
Regarding other non-regulated pollutants in ambient air, the Agency reiterates the conclusions of previous opinions and expert appraisal reports in which it underlined:
- the relevance and importance of monitoring pesticides in ambient air (ANSES, 2017);
- the relevance of sustaining the current monitoring system for pollen whose purpose is to inform the population and health professionals about atmospheric concentrations of pollen, allowing them to anticipate when to take medication or postpone an activity (ANSES, 2014).
Lastly, the Agency reiterates that it has received a formal request from the Directorate General for Health to undertake an expert appraisal leading to the proposal of recommendations for the national monitoring of moulds in ambient air, in light of the public health challenges they pose. This work is currently in progress.
Toxicity Reference Value
ANSES (2017). Collective expert appraisal report. Proposed arrangements for monitoring pesticides in ambient air. 306 p.
ANSES (2014). Collective expert appraisal report. State of knowledge on the health impact associated with exposure of the general population to pollen found in ambient air. 236 p.