Tel Aviv, or Tel Aviv Yafo as it is also known, has had some notable problems with its air quality in recent years. Although it has shown signs of gradually getting better, it still stands to reason that there is much that the city could do to improve upon its air quality levels, with many months of the year coming in with heightened readings of the various pollutants used to measure the cleanliness of the air.
As mentioned, Tel Aviv has seen improvement, albeit with numbers that appear to perhaps be fluctuating up and down by a few units rather than actually seeing a gradual marked improvement. In 2017, Tel Aviv came in with a PM2.5 reading of 18.3 μg/m³, placing it within the moderate pollution bracket for this year, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. This was a repeating theme for Tel Aviv throughout the last few years, with a plethora of moderately rated pollution readings being taken, indicating that Tel Aviv is subject to year round levels of elevated air contamination.
With more up to date data available, in 2020 Tel Aviv came in with a PM2.5 reading of 17.2 μg/m³, once again putting it in the moderate ratings bracket, with its various months all staying within this bracket, with a few visible spikes at certain times of the year. In April of 2021, Tel Aviv presented with a US AQI reading of 96, another moderate ranking albeit on the higher end of this rating, not far from being moved up into the next pollution bracket.
Regarding the PM2.5 number taken in 2020, the reading of 17.2 μg/m³ placed it in 1090th place out of all cities ranked worldwide. Whilst this is not a disastrous placing, it is still indicative that the city could do much to clean up its air quality and thus improve living conditions for its citizens, particularly for those with poor health and various lung or heart conditions.
Tel Aviv sees much of its pollution generated from a multitude of combustion sources. These consistently high pollution readings can also be attributed to meteorological conditions as well, with arid climates and large amounts of sunlight also causing the reaction of certain chemicals to take place, creating pollutants known as ‘secondary pollutants’, with ones such as ozone (O3) topping this list. Secondary pollutants implies that it was created later on in the atmosphere, whereas a primary pollutant can come directly from a singular source such as a car engine or a fire. Of note is that there are certain pollutants that can be in both the primary and secondary pollutant category.
Some of these main sources would be exhaust fumes emitted from vehicles, with huge amounts of cars being on the road at any given time, as well as freight vehicles such as lorries and trucks. These heavy duty vehicles often run on diesel fuel and can put out larger amounts of chemical pollutants as well as dangerous particulate matter.
Others include road dust and construction sites, both of which can throw up large amounts of both fine (PM2.5) and coarse (PM10) particles into the air, both of which are extremely damaging to breathe, with the tinier particles being of greater danger. Other sources include the burning of wood and charcoal within homes, as well as smoke and haze released from factories and powerplants.
Observing the data collected over the course of 2020, it can be seen that whilst the entire year came in with PM2.5 readings that were moderately ranked, as mentioned there were a few months where the numbers rose slightly higher.
These months were ones such as March, September and December, showing the sporadic nature of pollution levels within Tel Aviv, something that can be of greater danger due to lack of predictability regarding air quality levels, as opposed to cities that have clear cut periods of time with heightened levels of pollution, and thus the appropriate preventative measures can be taken when these time periods do occur.
Such preventative measures include ones such as the wearing of fine particle filtering masks, avoiding outdoor activity or strenuous exercise if possible (with outdoor exercise in polluted environments causing one to inhale large amounts of contaminated air due to significantly increased respiration rates), as well as the use of air quality maps, as available on this page and throughout the IQAir website, as well as the AirVisual app.
Referring back to these more polluted months, the months of March, September and December came in with PM2.5 readings of 18.3 μg/m³, 21.4 μg/m³ and 24.7 μg/m³ respectively, making the December the most polluted month of the year and in the higher end of the moderate ratings bracket. This is a time when the air would be at its most permeated with smoke, dust clouds and other aggravating or irritating materials.
Some of the main pollutants found in the air in Tel Aviv would be ones that arise as a result of the various combustion processes that take place across the city, as well as areas or sites that release large amounts of dust clouds of both fine and coarse particles.
Some pollutants released from these sites would be ones such as black carbon, finely ground silica and gravel dust, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and both sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, (SO2) and (NO2). Some examples of VOCs include chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde, which along with silica dust and black carbon (the main component in soot), have well known carcinogenic properties. As well as this, they are able to alter the nervous system and have many other far reaching effects within the human body.
In contrast to the times when the air quality is at its worst, while there were no months that fell out of the moderate pollution bracket and into the two lower air quality ratings brackets, there were several months in which the air quality was slightly cleaner, and hence more free from the smog and dust clouds that can cause such adverse effects amongst the population.
January, February, April, May and June all came in with some of the lower PM2.5 readings, with numbers of 14 μg/m³, 15.5 μg/m³, 15.3 μg/m³, 16.6 μg/m³ and 12.7 μg/m³ respectively. This made June the cleanest month with its reading of 12.7 μg/m³, only 0.7 units away from being moved down into the ‘good’ air quality ratings bracket (10 to 12 μg/m³ required).