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While air is polluted in many ways, clean air is an important ingredient for health and well being of humans and ecosystems. Air pollutants can carry long distances and affect areas far from the original source. Allowing for the expected plume rise, it is e.g. assumed that emissions from any stack with a physical height greater than 50 metres, will be released in atmospheric layers above 100m.
The European Union has established several long-term quality objectives for air and has adopted a wide range of policy measures to cope with air quality problems. This relates to EC directives as well as to international regulation or sector strategies and includes a wide range of measures from regulatory standards and permits to planning provisions and economic and informative incentive instruments. The Sixth Environmental Action Programme includes the impact area of air under the headline Environment and Health. It demands the adoption of a thematic strategy on air pollution. Air policy´s main target sectors are industry with its great amount of emissions from stationary sources (i.e. large combustion plants, waste incineration plants etc.) and private households with special regard to emissions from motor vehicles. Concerning the different material elicitors, up to now most reductions have been achieved through cleaning exhaust gases, but more recently attention is also given to a reduction in the use of solvents.
The EU and its Member States are actively involved in the Convention on the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Several directives contribute to the implementation of these obligations, the national emission ceilings directive being the most prominent. Moreover, the fulfilment of the Kyoto Protocol and the reduced emissions of CO2 by fossil fuel burning will lead to a reduction for many other air pollutants as well.
According to the Impact Assessment Guidelines of the European Commission, the following key question are of particular importance when examining the impacts of policy initiatives on air quality:
- JRC: IA TOOLS. Supporting inpact assessment in the European Commission. 
This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.