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|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 66 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Skopje is currently 3.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Wednesday, Feb 21
Moderate 76 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 22
Moderate 81 AQI US
|Friday, Feb 23
Moderate 89 AQI US
Moderate 66 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 45 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 26
Good 40 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Good 42 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Moderate 60 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Moderate 56 AQI US
|Friday, Mar 1
Moderate 53 AQI US
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Skopje is the capital and largest city in North Macedonia. It is located on the upper part of the Vardar River and is found on the key north-south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens. Because of its location, many industries were attracted to the convenience and suitability as a transport hub. It grew up as a centre for metal-processing, timber, chemical, leather, textile and printing industries.
According to the last official census in 2002, Skopje had a population of around 430,000 inhabitants, obviously by 2021, this figure will have increased considerably.
At the beginning of the second quarter in 2021, Skopje was experiencing a period of “Moderate” quality air with a US AQI reading of 84. This is in accordance with recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The recorded concentration level of the pollutant PM2.5 was 28.1 µg/m³.
With levels such as these, it is advisable to close doors and windows to prevent the ingress of dirty air into the rooms. It would be ill-advised for those of a sensitive disposition to venture outside until the air quality improves.
Looking back over figures recorded throughout 2020, it can be seen that for 8 months of the year from March until the end of October, Skopje experienced “Moderate” quality air with readings between 12.1 and 35.4 µg/m³. The quality deteriorates during the colder winter months. In February and December, the air quality was classed as being “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” with readings between 35.5 and 55.4 µg/m³ whereas in January and November the quality was worse with figures between 55.5 and 150.4 µg/m³. Records for Skopje have only been available since 2019 when the mean result was 32.4 µg/m³, however, a slight improvement can be seen in the 2020 figure which was 30.6 µg/m³.
Not only does it vary throughout the year, but due to atmospheric conditions, it can change from day to day. The table at the top of this page shows the relevant information with regards to air quality in real-time.
With Skopje being such an industrialised city, it comes as no surprise that it has a major pollution problem, especially during the colder winter months. Recorded levels of PM2.5 and PM10 are regularly found to be in excess of ten times the WHO’s recommended level. The density of the smoke is so great that motorists’ vision is impaired by it. Together with India and Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia shares the accolade of being one of the dirtiest countries in the entire world.
Skopje's high levels of air pollution are caused by a combination of smoke emanated through the heating of the houses, emissions from industry, from buses and other forms of public transport, as well as from cars, and a general lack of interest in caring for the environment. Central heating systems can be unaffordable to many households who have to rely on the old traditional methods of heating their homes. This not only involves burning wood which is comparatively cheap and readily available but anything that is flammable is also burned. Old tyres, plastic garbage, petroleum, damp organic matter such as leaves and moss are also used as fuel. Together they emit a highly toxic soup of dangerous chemicals that are potentially harmful to younger children and the elderly.
Most of Western Europe has moved away from the use of coal as a source of power generation. Unfortunately, the Balkans and Eastern Europe do not have that choice. They continue to use dirty coal with a high lignite content which is highly pollutive. The Balkan region is home to many coal and lignite-fired units and to 7 of the 10 most polluting coal-fired power stations in Europe.
In general, people are becoming more aware of their surroundings and this includes breathing polluted air. A downloadable application had been launched which helps residents track the pollutants and make plans accordingly. It uses the “traffic light” system where the various colours indicate different levels of safety. The information is gathered from both private sources and from government monitoring stations. However, the government-controlled devices often malfunction and fail to provide accurate figures. This means that the figures are obtained from the less accurate privately-owned sensors which do not give the same high accuracy as ones costing so much more.
At the end of 2019, a march was attended by thousands of protestors who were voicing their displeasure at the government’s non-commitment to a better environment. Figures from 2017 showed that approximately 1300 people lost their lives prematurely because of air pollution. This is mostly due to household wood-burning stoves during the cold winters, an old fleet of cars still using old technology and the practice of garbage disposal by incineration.
Very little seems to have come out of this protest as in 2021, things remain very much the same and the goal for a cleaner, healthier future has not yet started.
Although the primary organs that suffer from air pollution are the lungs and the cardiovascular system, there is almost no organ that doesn’t suffer from the impact of a high concentration of particulate matter suspended in the air. Those more sensitive groups within the population such as children younger than 5 years old, senior citizens, people with chronic diseases, patients with asthma, people who work outdoors and smokers whose risk of serious cardiac burden increases to between 3 and 4 times. Those with pre-existing respiratory problems are at particular risk.
A lot depends on the current health status of the individual, the pollutant type and concentration, and the length of your exposure to the polluted air.
Even young healthy people can be affected by air pollution, but generally, they are stronger and can recover quickly once the threat has passed. This is not the case for those belonging to the high-risk groups such as those mentioned earlier and pregnant women. Children are at particular risk because they tend to be more active outdoors and because of their stature, they are closer to the source of much air pollution.