Air Quality Wiki

Pollutants

Ozon – O3

Ozone is a colourless, toxic gas. At ground level, it is formed from nitrogen oxides and other volatile organic compounds by solar radiation, through photochemical processes.

  • Main sources: road traffic, combustion plants, solvents, agriculture
  • Health effects: damage to the lungs, intensification of asthma symptoms or other lung diseases, irritation of the respiratory tract
  • Affected risk groups: people with lung diseases, children, seniors, people active outdoors
  • Environmental impact: impaired plant growth, quality and quantity of agricultural products

Particulate Matter – PM10

PM10 summarizes all solid and liquid particles with different chemical compositions with a diameter smaller than 10 μm.

  • Main sources: road traffic, power plants, stoves / heaters in residential buildings, metal production, agriculture, soil erosion
  • Health effects: depending on the size, particles penetrate into the nasal cavity, bronchi or blood circulation and damage the tissue
  • Affected risk groups: people at increased risk of lung, heart / circulatory diseases or diabetes, children, seniors, people active outdoors

Particulate Matter – PM2.5

PM2.5 summarizes all solid and liquid particles with different chemical compositions with a diameter smaller than 2.5 μm.

  • Main sources: road traffic, power plants, stoves / heaters in residential buildings, metal production, agriculture, soil erosion
  • Health effects: depending on the size, particles penetrate into the nasal cavity, bronchi or blood circulation and damage the tissue
  • Affected risk groups: people at increased risk of lung, heart / circulatory diseases or diabetes, children, seniors, people active outdoors

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Nitric oxides are by-products of combustion processes. Under sunlight, they are instrumental in the formation of ground-level ozone and are also a source of fine dust.

  • Main sources: road transport, combustion plants, solvents, agriculture
  • Health effects: irritants and narrows the bronchi, intensifies lung diseases, increases the risk of diabetes and heart/circulatory diseases
  • Affected risk groups:  persons with lung disease or increased cardiovascular risk, children, seniors, outdoor active persons
  • Effects on the environment: Impaired plant growth, leading to overfertilization and acidification of soils and waters.

Summary of Selected Thresholds

Limits in Germany are strongly oriented towards the EU regulations. Switzerland, on the other hand, strives to comply with the WHO recommendations. Switzerland and Scotland have the strictest thresholds for air pollution. Brexit is unlikely to influence UK thresholds, since the UK limits are already strict. 

Ozon Thresholds

WHO: 100 µg/m3 (8h, daily maximum) 

EU: 120 µg/m3 (8-hour mean threshold not to be exceeded on more than 25 days averaged over 3 years) 

Germany: 120 µg/m³ O3 (highest 8-hour average of a day during a calendar year) 

 

Particulate Matter (PM10) Thresholds

WHO: 15 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

EU: 40 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

Germany: 40 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

 

Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Thresholds

WHO: 5 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

EU: 25 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

Germany: 25 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

 

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Thresholds

WHO: 10 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

EU: 40 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

Germany: 40 μg/m³ (annual mean) 

 

Air Quality in Numbers

22,000 data sets indicate a link between air/noise pollution and heart failure.

Researchers from the American Heart Association collected data from over 22,000 people. The analysis revealed evidence of an association with heart failure. It’s surprising how the two factors work together, the researchers said. Read more here.  

500,000 premature deaths annually in the European Region are attributable to air pollution

The WHO figure shows that 348 000 of these deaths in the Region occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and 208 000 deaths occurred in high-income countries. Of these, the majority are attributable to ambient air pollution.
Read more here

 

Risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease 35% higher with higher levels of PM2.5

Particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution is linked to a significantly increased risk of hospitalisation and death from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study by Duke University.

The researchers analysed North Carolina mortality and hospital admissions data for associations with levels of PM2.5. They identified 87 North Carolina postcodes where PM2.5 was above World Health Organisation (WHO) levels. Having adjusted for factors such as race, sex, income, education and health care access, the researchers found that the risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease was 35% higher in populations living in areas with higher levels of PM2.5.

Read more in Air Quality News

 

90% of the world suffers from harmful levels of air pollution

The average level of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in the largest cities in the world is 39 ug/m3, nearly 4 times higher than the World Health Organisation guideline of 10 ug/m3, according to analysis conducted by NGO OpenAQ.
Read more here

 

Climate

Short-lived climate pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants are powerful climate forcers that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide (CO2), yet their potential to warm the atmosphere can be many times greater. Certain short-lived climate pollutants are also dangerous air pollutants that have harmful effects for people, ecosystems and agricultural productivity.

The short-lived climate pollutants black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons are the most important contributors to the man-made global greenhouse effect after carbon dioxide, responsible for up to 45% of current global warming.

More here

Tipping Points

A tipping point is when the familiar development of a system becomes so unbalanced that it takes on a new development and often cannot be restored to its former state.

Closely related to this is the term “tipping element“. In climate research, a tipping element refers to a part of the climate system whose interrelationships indicate the existence of a tipping point (in the broader sense).

With the help of various climate models, a number of regions have been identified so far where the local climate reacts very sensitively to interventions. Some of these tipping points could already be crossed in the course of the 21st century or have already been crossed.

Such a “tipping point” thus represents a risk where the damage is huge but the probability of occurrence is unknown. In view of the profound changes that each of these scenarios entails, it seems compelling that all these developments also influence each other and that the crossing of one tipping point could indirectly trigger the crossing of another. The complex interactions are unmanageable and by no means fully explored at present.

 


Climate Change

“Climate change” refers to the cooling or warming of the Earth’s climate over a long period of time. Not to be confused with weather – what we perceive every day in terms of short-term, current changes in temperature. Climate change is not a new phenomenon. It describes the long-term changes in factors such as temperature, precipitation and ocean currents.

Natural climate change is a process that develops over thousands of years.

Man-made climate change, on the other hand, takes place within a few generations.

Over the last 10,000 years, the temperature of our planet has been largely stable. This changed with the dawn of the industrial age about 260 years ago.

What is “climate”?

“Climate” refers to the average weather, including its extreme values, over a longer period of time at a specific location. “Climate” is therefore not directly measurable anywhere, but a statistic from many measurements. The area can be small or large, a city or a continent or the whole globe. The time period must be large enough for the formation of a statistical mean.

The reference period for determining the climate of the present is 30 years, e.g. the years 1961-1990. If the climate variables, i.e. temperature, precipitation, wind, evaporation, etc., fluctuate around a long-term mean value, the climate remains stable. If the mean value and the variability of the extremes change noticeably, a climate change is present. In contrast to the weather, the statistical mean values of the climate can theoretically be predicted over the longer term, especially for larger spaces such as continents or the globe

More here

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