Central Milan is one part of Italy with longstading pollution problems. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP
“Daily and annual limit values for PM10 particulate matter were very regularly exceeded” in zones highlighted by the European Commission in an
infringement procedure launched two years ago, the court said in a statement.
Further, “the Italian Republic has manifestly failed to adopt in good time the measures” required under the EU's Air Quality Directive, which aims to
reduce unhealthy pollution in Europe's air.
PM10 refers to the size of particulate matter in the air, with the number indicating how many microns, or tiny units of measurement with one micron
equalling 1000th of a millimetre in diameter.
The World Health Organization says air pollution of particles smaller than 10 microns can lodge in the lungs, and those smaller than 2.5 microns cause
heightened mortality due to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and cancers.
The European Commission infringement process against Italy could result in fines being levied.
Several other EU countries are also in Brussels' sights for air pollution.
The European Court of Justice last year found France to be in breach of the Air Quality Directive for nitrogen dioxide levels, and last month the European Commission took Paris to court for fine particle air pollution. Poland, too, was rapped by the court in 2018 for exceeding fine-particle levels.
Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union for exceeding the bloc's recommended limits on air pollution.
Turin, Milan and Naples are ranked the worst cities in the EU for dangerous particulate pollution, while Italy has the bloc's highest number of premature deaths from nitrogen dioxide fumes spewed out by diesel vehicles, according to the European Environment Agency.
In the EU, 13 percent of deaths are linked to pollution, according to a report published recently by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which stressed the current pandemic put environmental health factors in the spotlight.