2018 data on air quality: 57 cities exceed the NO2 limit value

German Environment Agency publishes “Gesunde Luft“ magazine on air pollution

city center of Munich, in the background the AlpsClick to enlarge
Big cities like Stuttgart or Munich have the sad record of being leaders in air pollution.
Source: Oliver Raupach / Fotolia.com

The measurement data for the 2018 nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in Germany is now public, according to which 57 cities still exceeded the air quality limit value of 40 microgrammes NO2 per cubic metre of air (µg/m³) based on an annual average. In 2017 65 cities were still affected. President Maria Krautzberger of the German Environment Agency (UBA) said, “The air in cities is becoming cleaner which is a move in the right direction. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the measures adopted to date are not sufficient to ensure universal compliance with the European limit value for NO2 which is in effect for the sake of health protection. In addition to the software updates now taking place, we really need speedy retrofitting of older model diesel cars with efficient catalytic converters to reduce NO2 emissions. The statutory framework for the approval of such catalytic converters has been established and retrofitting companies have submitted their first orders for passenger cars too. The authorisation process must now be sped up. All automobile manufacturers are called upon to provide retrofitters with technical support and customers with financial relief when purchasing the systems.”

There were 13 cities less than last year which exceeded the limit value. However, five cities continue to exceed the limit somewhat: Leipzig, Ulm, Koblenz, Eschweiler and Sindelfingen. In general,  NO2 emissions pollution in cities continued to decline. NO2  levels (on an annual average) at measuring stations near road traffic recorded roughly 1.5 µg/m³ below 2017 levels.
Although the limit value for particulates (PM10 ) – daily mean values to exceed 50 µg/m³ on no more than 35 days – was only exceeded at one measuring station in an industrial area in 2018, that is nevertheless too high and poses a health risk. This is particularly true when compared to the recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO), which states it may exceed 50 µg/m³ on a maximum of three days per year. This recommended value was exceeded at 78% of all 374 measuring sites, affecting not only large urban areas but also small towns and rural regions. Further action is therefore required to mitigate the health risk of exposure to particulates. A special focus should be placed on the emissions from wood-burning in private households and the emissions caused by abrasion from brakes, clutch disks and tyres. Mitigation efforts must also include the agricultural sector which is responsible for emissions of gaseous precursors, and ammonia in particular, produced in animal husbandry. They account for the formation of secondary particulates.

Submission of data or corrections to earlier reported data from the measuring networks of the federal states will be accepted until the official report is delivered to the EU Commission on 30 September 2019.

Gesunde Luft magazine: UBA is addressing the topic of clean air in the new edition of its Schwerpunkt: Gesunde Luft magazine (What Matters). The publication provides a short overview of the most common air pollutants, explains the basics of air pollution control, and introduces measuring methods and modelling applied to determine the burden of disease. The magazine is available for download (in German) here.

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