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Towards harmonised air quality measurements
Supporting the Commission and Member States to improve air quality measurements

By harmonising modelling and monitoring assessment methodologies the IES supports the Commission and Member States (MS) in the implementation of the Air Quality Directives (AQD). The European Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe asks for a common approach to the assessment of ambient air quality according to common criteria.

The ERLAP intercomparison facility

To do so, IES runs centralised activities like the European Reference Laboratory for Air Pollution (ERLAP). The ERLAP was established nearly 15 years ago and is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories for advanced inorganic and organic chemical analysis of particulate matter and gaseous air pollutants. As a reference centre for monitoring and measuring air quality, it has contributed considerably to the harmonisation of air pollution measurements and the correct implementation of air quality legislation in Europe. ERLAP has also been very active in training new EU Member States, and Accession and Associated Countries. Inter-comparison exercises are regularly carried out for gaseous air pollutants at the ERLAP facility. These exercises control the quality of air pollution measurements of the EU National Reference Laboratories and offer a forum for quality improvement and knowledge exchange. To compare the quality of particle measurements, the ERLAP mobile laboratory can audit monitoring stations in the MS. It works with international standardisation and metrology bodies like CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and EURAMET (European Metrology Organisation) and supports the activities of the Network of National Air Quality Reference Laboratories (AQUILA).

The JRC mobile laboratory is measuring air pollution

The Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) asks specifically for the organisation of quality assurance programmes for air quality assessment methods at a European level. Since the early 1990’s  Inter-comparison Exercises (IE) for the MS on air pollution measurements have been carried out at the ERLAP on a regular basis. All European National Reference Laboratories (NRLs), brought together in the AQUILA Network, are obliged to participate to the IEs organized by JRC. In 1992 the first IE for the gaseous pollutant nitrogen dioxide was organized. Since then more than 50 laboratories and institutes, coming from 35 European countries, participated to the inorganic gaseous pollutant IEs during the last 15 years.

ERLAP laboratory view during intercomparison exercise


Different quality assurance programmes for various air pollutants

The JRC organises different quality assurance programmes for various air pollutants. Gas mixtures with altered concentrations of CO, SO2, NOx, and O3 as well as samples of organic gaseous pollutants ( e.g. BTEX) are generated at the ERLAP facility and measured by the participants. The results from the participants are then evaluated in accordance with internationally agreed statistical methods and criteria.

A quality assurance programme for particulate matter fractions PM10 and PM2.5 was organized through parallel measurements of Member States’ monitoring stations and the ERLAP mobile laboratory equipped with reference instrumentation.

Scheme of the gas generation facility at ERLAP


The European Quality Assurance Programmes

Through participation to the JRC intercomparison exercises and quality assurance programmes the competent authorities and institutes get important feed-back on their quality of measurements. Usually, the exercises are designed in such a way that the data interpretation allows a more detailed understanding of eventual technical problems within the measurement chain of the NRLs. At the same time the European Commission obtains important information about the level of compliance with the EU air quality directives ensuring correct implementation of EU legislations.

The IES’ research activities help understanding the sources and processes of air pollution and thus allow the development of related strategies. The comparability of air quality data has considerably improved since EU air quality directives and the related JRC harmonisation programmes for air pollutant measurements were introduced to support the implementation of the Air Quality Directive.



  • Belis C. A., M. Kapus, M. Barbiere and F. Lagler (2009). The evaluation of the Interlaboratory comparison Exercise for SO2, CO, O3, NO and NO2. EUR 24476 EN, ISBN 978-92-79-16360-9, ISSN 1018-5593, doi: 10.2788/47601, 2010.
  • Gerboles M. and Buzica D. (2009). Evaluation of Micro-Sensors to monitor Ozone in Ambient Air, EUR 23676 EN, ISBN 978-92-79-11104-4, ISSN 1018-5593, DOI 10.2788/5978.
  • Gerboles M., et al. (2010). Interlaboratory comparison exercise for the determination of As, Cd, Ni and Pb in PM10 in Europe, Atmospheric Environment 45, 3488-3499.
  • Pérez Ballesta P. et al. (2008). EC Intercomparison of VOC measurements between National Reference Laboratories (AQUILA network), EUR 23529 EN, ISBN 978-92-79-10048-2, ISSN 1018-5593, DOI 10.2788/11627.
  • Pérez Ballesta P., R. A. Field, R. Fernández-Patier, D. Galán Madruga, R. Connolly, A. Baeza Caracena, E. De Saeger. (2008). An approach for the evaluation of exposure patterns of urban populations to air pollution, Atmospheric Environment 42 (21), pp. 5350-5364.
  • Van Drooge  B. L. , I. Nikolova and P. Pérez Ballesta. (2009). Thermal desorption gas chromatography-mass spectrometry as an enhanced method for the quantification of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from ambient air particulate matter, Journal of Chromatography A 1216 (18), pp. 4030-4039.


Contact Info:

Annette Borowiak - Tel: +39-0332-789956 E-mail: annette.borowiak(at)


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