Fireworks sales ban: Low particulate matter levels at the turn of the year 2021/2022 in Germany

As in the previous year, the sale and lighting of fireworks and firecrackers on New Year’s Eve were restricted or banned nationwide due to the Corona pandemic. The level of particulate matter in Munich and other cities, which is harmful to health, was pleasingly low at the turn of 2021/2022. Like last year, the maximum particulate matter values remained far below the values measured in previous years with New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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Children’s right to clean air: children in particular suffer from air pollution in many ways – an overview

Access to clean air has recently been recognised as a human right but is not yet part of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 29 000 children around the world have now called for their right to clean air to be recognised as part of the Freedom to Breathe campaign, which will be implemented within a forthcoming amendment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Is this particular emphasis on the right to clean air specifically necessary? Or, to put it another way, do children suffer differently from air pollution than adults?
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Forego fireworks for good air on New Year’s Eve? How does particulate matter affect health?

At the end of the year, there is a regular discussion about whether fireworks should be dispensed with on New Year’s Eve or whether they should even be officially banned. This year, the discussion was additionally fuelled by the situation with Corona and the ban last year, which was mainly due to Corona.

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27 000 preventable premature deaths in Germany

At the beginning of this week, all major media reported 300 000 premature deaths due to particulate matter pollution in 2019 within the EU (e.g., Spiegel or Süddeutsche Zeitung). This news refers to a communication of the European Environment Agency (EEA), which certifies in principle a positive development of air quality in Europe, but also points out how many premature deaths are due to increased fine dust pollution. However, the actual core is that 50% of these deaths could have been avoided by complying with the new WHO guideline values. The following also applies to Germany: Of 53 800 premature deaths, 27 000 could have been avoided. Read more

New WHO guidelines on air pollution – what’s their meaning?

By reducing the recommended heights, existing laws come under pressure – or at least are being questioned. While the European Air Pollution Control Directive largely complied with the previous WHO recommendations from 2005, gaps are now apparent. The EU has already announced a revision and launched the corresponding consultation. Read more

Healthy Air, Healthy Planet: International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies

In 2019, the UN decided to declare September 7 the “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies”. With the Corona-related lockdown, images went around the world showing blue skies where visibility is otherwise severely restricted by polluted air. We have also published a number of articles on this topic, whereby not only the concrete effects on cities were examined, but also the effects on health were questioned. Read more here.

This year, the UN is putting the day under the motto “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet” and thus combines two important aspects: Polluted air is a problem for health AND for the climate.

Some air pollutants, such as black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone, are also short-lived climate pollutants. On the one hand, they are responsible for a significant proportion of deaths caused by air pollution, as well as for the effects on plants and thus food security. On the other hand, about half of climate change is caused by short-lived climate pollutants. So that their reduction will have simultaneous benefits for the climate.

Here, too, silos must be torn down in thinking: It is not a question of taking care of air quality OR climate protection – often unfortunately only understood as CO2 reduction – but of tackling both together. This is not only a global challenge that can only be solved by local approaches but also offers great opportunities and synergy effects thanks to modern technologies.

Going hand-in-hand: Your health and the health of our planet

Today is “Earth Day”: Time to recall the ambitious goals we have for the reduction of greenhouse gases. It is good to see how prominently the topic of CO2 footprint is covered in the media and in public discussions. In addition, we need to be aware that Black Carbon and tropospheric Ozone, which are usually recognized as air pollutants, are also considered climate pollutants. They belong to the group of “Short-Lived-Climate Pollutants” (SLCPs). Why are they called “short-lived”? Because their atmospheric lifetime is a fraction of that of CO2.

This is both a threat and an opportunity: measures curbing SLCPs generate their impact within weeks, while Methane and CO2 abatement measures require decades, if not centuries. So, by focusing on mitigating air pollution we are tackling a perpetrator that is harming both our health AND our climate. In fact, according to the WHO and UNEP, climate change mitigation will only be possible when SLCPs and CO2 are addressed simultaneously.

Do the positive effects of the Corona Lock-Down offset the health issues caused by the pandemic?

A deeper analysis for Munich

The COVID-19 pandemic has infected about 13 million people and claimed more than 550 thousand deaths worldwide by 14 July 2020. It has been reported in research that high air pollution may be “one of the most important contributors to deaths from COVID-19”. Studies show a positive correlation between particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide to health damage and, more specifically, to diseases related to the lungs like pneumonia, which makes people suffering from these ailments more susceptible to COVID 19. On the other hand, due to the lockdown measures, significant improvement in air quality has been witnessed. Read more

The long overdue paradigm shift towards a healthy, carbon neutral economy starts with cleaning our air

Air quality management – a fascinating lineage

I grew up in Cairo. A city that shows all the typical traits of an emerging economy when it comes to air quality and health. I grew up in a household of doctors, who spent their lifetime researching the delicate relationship between the air we breathe and our health. Here is a paper co-written by my dad for The Lancet Journal on the “Effect of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide on airway response of mild asthmatic patients to allergen inhalation” written back in 1998. So imagine you grow up seeing and hearing about the “Black Cloud” of Cairo and the rise of patient visits in my parents’ clinic around the dinner table. Or discussions on best treatment options for patients during the long drives towards the Egyptian Red Sea coast with its windy fresh air. Thus, I always understood the topic of air pollution within a context – the context of bad health indicators, exacerbated symptoms, increased healthcare expenditures and overall reduced life quality. Read more

Time series comparison of pre- and post-lockdown for German cities

In general all graphs show that the mean NO2 concentration after the lockdown date has decreased – at some stations the effect is larger than at others. Concentration peaks with similar amplitudes, compared to before the lockdown, persist. The overall patterns would require a more detailed analysis of the locations e.g. considering mobility behaviour.

  • Berlin
  • Dresden
  • Hamburg
  • Suttgart

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