Air Quality is one of the areas in which Europe has been most active in the past decades. The European Commission's aim has been to develop an overall strategy through the setting of long-term air quality objectives. The so-called "Clean Air For Europe" Directive 2008/50/EC and the 4th Daughter Directive 2004/107/EC deal with controlling the levels of the most harmful air pollutants and monitoring their concentrations in the air.
The most important and relevant paragraphs dealing with the National Refernce Laboratory’s responsibilities are Article 3 and Annex I, Section C of the Directive 2008/50/EC:
Responsibilities: Member States shall designate at the appropriate levels the competent authorities and bodies responsible for the following:
(a) assessment of ambient air quality;
(b) approval of measurement systems (methods, equipment, networks and laboratories);
(c) ensuring the accuracy of measurements;
(d) analysis of assessment methods;
(e) coordination on their territory if Community-wide quality assurance programmes are being organised by the Commission;
(f) cooperation with the other Member States and the Commission.
Where relevant, the competent authorities and bodies shall comply with Section C of Annex I
C. Quality assurance for ambient air quality assessment: data validation
To ensure accuracy of measurements and compliance with the data quality objectives laid down in Section A, the appropriate competent authorities and bodies designated pursuant to Article 3 shall ensure the following:
- that all measurements undertaken in relation to the assessment of ambient air quality pursuant to Articles 6 and 9 are traceable in accordance with the requirements set out in Section 220.127.116.11 of the ISO/IEC 17025:2005,
- that institutions operating networks and individual stations have an established quality assurance and quality control system which provides for regular maintenance to assure the accuracy of measuring devices,
- that a quality assurance/quality control process is established for the process of data collection and reporting and that institutions appointed for this task actively participate in the related Community-wide quality assurance programmes,
- that the national laboratories, when appointed by the appropriate competent authority or body designated pursuant to Article 3, that are taking part in Community-wide intercomparisons covering pollutants regulated in this Directive, are accredited according to EN/ISO 17025 by 2010 for the reference methods referred to in Annex VI. These laboratories shall be involved in the coordination on Member States territory of the Community wide quality assurance programmes to be organised by the Commission and shall also coordinate, on the national level, the appropriate realisation of reference methods and the demonstration of equivalence of non-reference methods.
More information about the Air Quality Policy of the European Union can be found on the Air Quality webpage of DG Environment.