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|Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Rheinland-Pfalz
|Wangen im Allgau, Baden-Wuerttemberg
|Frankfurt am Main, Hessen
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|Berlin Leipziger Straße (MC)
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 41 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Berlin is currently 2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Wednesday, Feb 21
Good 45 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 22
Good 21 AQI US
|Friday, Feb 23
Good 27 AQI US
Good 41 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 40 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 26
Moderate 56 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Moderate 67 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Moderate 63 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Moderate 60 AQI US
|Friday, Mar 1
Moderate 80 AQI US
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The air in Berlin and the surrounding area is polluted by a variety of particulate and gaseous air materials, all of which have a profound negative effect on the health of its citizens. One such pollutant that is particularly harmful to the respiratory tract is PM2.5, referring to particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 or less micrometers. Since the introduction of environmental zones, a significant reduction in the concentration of these fine particles has been seen in Berlin’s air. On occasion, higher numbers have cropped up from time to time over the last few years due to meteorological (relating to the atmosphere and its behavior) conditions. These meteorological phenomena include long-distance atmospheric transport, the heating trends of the city's inhabitants, as well as the varying changes in weather conditions such as rainfall and windspeed.
In addition to the fine particulate matter PM2.5, its larger counterpart, PM10 is also emitted from open burning sources, as well as other industrial or human related activities such as construction sites. The average yearly count of said particulate matter has been observed over the last 16 years, with the measurements of PM10 showing prominent fluctuations from year to year. These irregularities once again can also depend on the previously mentioned meteorological conditions.
Other pollutants emitting from diesel and gasoline-based vehicles are ones such as the various nitrogen oxides (NOx). In particular, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) appears as one of the most common pollutants found in the atmosphere. Whilst his pollutant generally does not exceed the average guideline numbers, it can be observed that on busy roads and other areas that see high volumes of traffic, the value is often exceeded due to high concentrations of cars and other vehicles, which are main offenders in the emission of nitrogen dioxide.
The air quality in Berlin is generally ranked as being "good" according to the Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings. According to the 2019 World Air Quality Report, the average particulate matter level, or PM2.5 for Berlin in 2019 was 9.7 μg/m³. As a result, the average air pollution in Berlin was just within the World Health Organization's (WHO) PM2.5 target bracket of great air quality, requiring a reading between 0 to 10 μg/m³. This means that individuals can conduct day to day outdoor activities in the fresh air in Berlin without having to worry about the negative effects of pollution and haze permeating the atmosphere and therefore being respired.
Berlin's air quality in 2019 was shown to be better than that of Germany as a whole, where an annual PM2.5 average of 11 μg/m³ was recorded in the same year. As a result, Berlin was one of the 36.4% of European cities that fell within then WHO’s target goal for PM2.5 levels, at the aforementioned 9.7 μg/m³. In 2019, according to the IQAir ranking, Berlin was placed 14th among the cleanest capitals worldwide, being edged out only by exceptionally clean capitals such as Copenhagen and Lisbon. In the IQAir ranking, one can also see that Berlin has performed better in the past compared to other German cities, ranking in at 129th place out of all cities in Germany, with 154 cities registered, putting it into the higher echelons of cleanest places to live within the country.
Taking a closer look at the development of air quality over the period of 2019, one can see that during the colder months the air quality is displayed as "moderate" (12.1 to 34.5 μg/m³ to be classed as such), due to the high level of PM2.5 found in Berlin. The fluctuation of the cities AQI between the colder and warmer months is a number of direct and indirect influences of the weather. Because of the cold, the population tends to rely on indoor heating more, resulting in a higher use of fuels. Traffic also contributes to the formation of winter smog, with factors such as exhaust gases and tire abrasion adding to the particulate matter in the air.
The cold winter air is also denser than the polluted air of the emissions, and as a result, this air is pulled under the polluted, warmer air. This is known as thermal inversion and is primary step in the formation of smog. Of note, pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide, amongst other forms of microscopic particulate matter, were identified as the primary culprits in the higher levels of smog.
Observing the data recorded over 2019 regarding the most polluted months, the ones that stand out are January and February (13.4 and 16.3 μg/m³ respectively) as well as November coming in with a moderate rating of 17.4 μg/m³, making it the most polluted month out of the year in 2019.
So, to summarize, it Is during the colder months of the year (November through to April in the following year) that have the worst levels of air pollution, with variations occurring due to the previously mentioned meteorological changes.
Various studies have shown that air pollutants can affect the respiratory system in various ways and consequently lead to various diseases. One of these diseases is the triggering of pre-existing bronchial asthma. Asthma symptoms are more common with long-term exposure to particulate matter. Exhaust gases from transport, industry and agriculture also increase the likelihood of respiratory infections, especially at high concentrations of PM2.5 and NO2.
For children that experience both pre and postnatal PM2.5 exposure, it seems to correlate with a higher probability of getting infections in the lungs during their early childhood, which can lead to permanently reduced lung function, stunted growth, mental defects as well as a variety of problems for babies still in the womb (such as low birth weight, miscarriage and birth defects).
The concentration of PM2.5 from exhaust gases associated with lung cancer was also investigated. The results showed an increased mortality risk with lung cancer if there was high PM2.5 air pollution in the environment. These are but a few of the health risks of being exposed to higher particulate matter count, and as such, taking preventative measures and avoiding outdoor activity or wearing high quality particle filtering masks would be of great assistance in reducing the negative health effects of pollution exposure.
The City of Berlin has taken various measures to improve its air quality over the last few years. In their air pollution control plan, the focus is mainly on measures regarding the transport sector, which is a major source of emissions. The first step of measures is to make a shift within the Berlin Transport Authority (BVG) towards higher use of electric vehicles, and in addition to increase the financial support of using said vehicles. Natural gas vehicles are also on the horizon in terms of countrywide environmental promotion.
In order to relieve the burden of individual passenger transport, the city of Berlin plans to increase spending on its public transport sector and make it more attractive to the general population. This is done by introducing various measures, such as the taxing of public vehicles (similar to London’s congestion charge) in certain traffic zones, as well as providing further relief through the expansion of footpath and cycle path infrastructure.
A monetary incentive to use the BVG will be made by increasing parking fees. Additionally, a nationwide expansion of parking management is intended to reduce traffic and thus emission levels, especially on the main roads. Another option to improve air quality in Berlin is the use of appropriate soot and particulate filters in the car in order to reduce the pollutants given off via the exhaust fumes emitted. The use of these particulate filters is prescribed in Berlin for certain vehicle types, particularly ones that emit higher levels of smoke and pollution into the atmosphere. The filtering of these pollutants would be especially helpful in reducing overall pollution levels.
4 Data sources