The report, published on Monday (28 July), shows that road transport remains the single most important source of sulphur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) in the EU-27.
It is also the second-most important source, behind the construction and residential sector, of fine particulate emissions (PM10 and PM2.5), which can cause respiratory diseases in humans.
Other main sources of air pollution were manufacturing industries and construction, the residential sector (particulate matters) and agriculture (mainly ammonia), according to the report, which compiles data submitted by the 27 EU member states between 1990 and 2006.
Overall, emissions of air pollutants have tended to decrease across the EU since 1990 the report says, noting that "reported emissions of nitrogen oxides in 2006 have decreased by more than 35 %, and sulphur dioxide by almost 70 %".
The largest reductions in emissions were achieved for the acidifying pollutant SOx, the report further notes, with emissions in 2006 almost 70 % lower than in 1990. In this sector, it is public electricity and heat production in the energy sector which are responsible for the bulk of the pollution, with 58.4% of reported emissions.
Emissions of the three air pollutants primarily responsible for the formation of harmful ground-level ozone also fell during that period, the report notes: CO emissions fell by 53%, NMVOCs by 44 % and NOX by 35%.
The EEA report was published as part of the EU's commitments under the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, which is managed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
According to the European Commission, Europeans live on average eight months less as a result of fine particle matter emitted into the air. "In more polluted areas of the EU, the figure goes up to 36 months," said Barbara Helfferich, spokesperson for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
In a statement annexed to the directive, the Commission announced a number of wide new legislative proposals it plans to put forward in 2008 to further improve air quality in Europe. It includes measures to reduce emissions associated with refuelling of petrol cars at service stations and other measures such as reducing the solvent content of paints and varnishes.