LIFE Project Cover Photo

Testing and Development of air quality mitigation measures in Southern Europe

Reference: LIFE11 ENV/ES/000584 | Acronym: AIRUSE



Air pollution caused by airborne particulate matter (PM) is a major environmental and health problem. To address this problem, the EU is implementing its Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, adopting a directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC). This directive lowers the limits for particulate matter in air. Such legislation, however, represents a significant compliance challenge for many areas across Europe, particularly urban and industrial areas. Countries with arid climates, such as those in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, for example, are affected by a wide range of emission sources – such as industry, traffic and dust intrusions – as well as high radiation and photochemical conversion rates that significantly enhance particle levels in the air.

But mitigation strategies and air quality management can be improved. It is important not just to monitor ambient air pollutant concentrations, but also to better understand the reasons why PM limits are often exceeded in specific areas.


The overall goal of the AIRUSE project was to develop and demonstrate cost-effective measures for ensuring better air quality in urban areas. It aimed to identify the most effective mitigation measures for reducing PM levels to within acceptable limits and thus to contribute to meeting current and future EU targets for air quality. Specifically, the project aimed to:

  • Harmonise methods for identifying the sources of PM in the air;
  • Determine the relative contribution of different emission sources of PM;
  • Identify those sources that are responsible for exceeding PM limits in specific areas;
  • Evaluate the effect of current air quality mitigation measures;
  • Develop targeted mitigation measures for the most important and relevant PM sources in southern European urban areas;
  • Assess how different mitigation measures impact on PM sources and overall air quality; and
  • Further adapt and optimise targeted mitigation measures.


    The AIRUSE project achieved its main objectives, generating knowledge of the sources of PM and their relative impact. It employed advanced factor analysis modelling to quantify the contribution of a range of anthropogenic and natural sources to the PM concentration levels in five southern European cities – Athens, Barcelona, Florence, Milan and Porto. This analysis led to the drawing up of recommendations on how to lower concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 in the air, which were sent to national authorities. The project findings are highly transferrable for urban areas in the Mediterranean basin. Their main findings can be summarised as follows:

  • Road traffic is the main source of particles in the air;
  • Biomass burning is a significant source of PM in four out of the five cities studied;
  • PM limits are exceeded for a range of reasons, mainly relating to traffic, biomass burning and African dust intrusions;
  • Systematic street washing is efficient in reducing resuspension of road dust (traffic and African dust);
  • Dust suppressants (CMA and MgCl2) did not prove to be efficient in reducing PM levels in urban and industrial sites;
  • Nano-polymers are effective for reducing soil resuspension in urban parks;
  • Traditional residential combustion appliances should be replaced by certified equipment and the market of firewood and pellets should be regulated;
  • Existing industrial inventories of particulate matter should be improved;
  • The Best Available Techniques for channelled and fugitive emissions should be updated periodically and the key parameters harmonised (Total Suspended Particulate, PM10 and PM2.5);
  • Efficient low emission zones (LEZs) must be stringent and include passenger cars;
  • Promoting cleaner vehicle technologies requires long-term consistent policies; and
  • Public information on the air quality impact of choice of fuel is required.
  • In addition to the reduction of PM, adoption of AIRUSE measures also reduces road dust resuspension and biomass burning and industrial emissions. These reductions, however, are not immediately apparent, so measures must be adopted for a significant period of time before being quantified. One of the successes of the project was thus the creation of strong partnerships among authorities and other interested bodies in hot-spot areas across southern Europe.

    In Barcelona, for example, the AIRUSE project formed the basis for the air quality plan that was drawn up by the department of the environment of the Catalan government. The plan adheres to the project recommendation that street cleaning should be carried out just before peak traffic times in order to optimise its impact and minimise disruption. Furthermore, AIRUSE methodology and protocols were used also to assess the impact of inhalable dust loadings on schools surrounding the site of a large uncontrolled fire at a tyre landfill site in Seseña (Toledo, Spain), on the request of the Castilla-La Mancha regional government. The project was thus a catalyst for public authorities to improve inventories of atmospheric pollutants to take into account those industrial activities not included under the Industrial Emissions Directive as well as PM2.5 and diffusive emissions. It also encouraged authorities to regulate biomass fuels, enforcing the use of ENPlus pellets and certified stoves, and banning the use of recycled wood as a domestic heating fuel.

    Finally, the project could help improve the effectiveness of local, regional and national policies on drawing up air quality plans in accordance with the requirements of Directive 2008/50/EC and the WHO Guidelines on ambient PM for protection of human health.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


    Reference: LIFE11 ENV/ES/000584
    Acronym: AIRUSE
    Start Date: 01/10/2012
    End Date: 30/09/2016
    Total Budget: 2,368,719 €
    EU Contribution: 1,138,861 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish Research Council)
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Serrano 117, 28006, Madrid, España
    Contact Person: Xavier Querol
    Tel: +34 934 006 100

    LIFE Project Map



    • Air quality monitoring
    • Pollutants reduction


    • urban area
    • emission reduction
    • air quality management
    • air pollution
    • air quality monitoring


    • Directive 2008/50/EC - Ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (21.05.2008)


    Name Type
    Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish Research Council) Coordinator
    N.C.S.R. Demokritos Participant
    University of Aveiro Participant
    Universita di Firenze Participant
    Asociación de Investigación de las Industrias Cerámicas Participant
    University of Birmingham Participant