Air quality 2014: Nitrogen dioxide now ranks as pollutant Nr. 1

Wood-fired heating systems emit more particulate matter locally than road traffic

different houses, covered with snow, with smoking chimneysClick to enlarge
Especially in the winter time the air can be contaminated with fine dust from chimneys and stoves
Source: Grzegorz Polak /

The pollutants nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone continued to threaten human health in Germany in 2014. These are the results of interim evaluations by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) of measurements taken at over 500 measuring stations. Nitrogen dioxide, whose main source is motor vehicle exhaust emissions, is particularly critical and has evolved to become pollutant Nr. 1: the annual mean values measured at more than half of the measuring stations near roads with heavy traffic were once again above the limit value of 40 micrograms (µg) per cubic metre (m3). The levels of particulate matter measured in 2014 were among the lowest on record, but UBA President Maria Krautzberger nevertheless sees no reason to sound the all clear: "Despite low levels of particulate matter there is still a health risk. There is no action level for particulate matter – even the lowest concentrations can do damage to health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed this time and time again."

In 2014 only ten percent of measuring stations located near traffic did not comply with the limit value for particulate matter (PM10) which has been in effect since throughout the EU since 1999; the daily mean value for PM10  at those sites was above the allowable 50 µg/m3 on over 35 days. The World Health Organization is advocating a stricter annual limit on particulate matter of 20 µg/m3 on average. Based on this, 48 percent of measuring stations would exceed the limit value. Maria Krautzberger said: "It is the growing number of wood-fired heating installations in particular which have a negative impact on particulate pollution. The share of wood-fired heating systems which contribute to particulate pollution can amount to up to 25 percent, especially in the winter months. Emissions from wood-fired systems now exceed the amounts of particulate matter which come from road traffic exhaust gases."

About half of the measuring stations located near road traffic measured nitrogen dioxide levels above the allowable annual mean value of 40 µg/m3. Experience of past years has shown that this number of stations will increase significantly when additional data are taken up in the statistics in May 2015 from 124 measuring stations where technical difficulties have prevented evaluation of data up to now. Maria Krautzberger said: "To get nitrogen dioxide exceedences under control, the new EURO 6 emission standard must in fact result in lower emissions from real traffic. Many automotive manufacturers have only been able to guarantee that in laboratory trials."
Although there were no ozone peak levels last summer, there were exceedences of target levels at about six percent of all measuring stations. The target level for daily 8-hour ozone stipulates it may not exceed 120 µg/m3 on more than 25 days per calendar year (based on a three-year average).

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Luftqualität 2014: Auswertung der Feinstaubwerte
Source: Umweltbundesamt

Luftqualität 2014: Auswertung der Feinstaubwerte

Luftqualität 2014 - vorläufige Auswertung (Januar 2015)

  1. Prozentualer Anteil der Messsationen mit Überschreitung des Grenzwertes
  2. Mittlere Anzahl von PM10-Überschreitungstagen (Tagemittelwerte > 50 mikrog/m3)
  3. Entwicklung der PM10-Jahresmittelwerte
  4. Entwicklung der NO2-Jahresmittelwerte
  5. Überschreitung des Grenzwertes für das NO2-Jahresmittel
  6. Ozonmessstationen mit Überschreitung bzw. Einhaltung des Zielwertes
  7. Überschreitung des Ozon-Alarmschwellenwertes von 240 mikrog/m3
  8. PM10-Emissionen in Deutschland
  9. Emissionsgrenzwerte für Staub nach der 1. BIMSchV
  10. Überschreitung der Feinstaubwerte PM10 im Jahr 2014
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 Luftqualität  Stickstoffdioxid  Feinstaub  Luftdaten 2014