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2022 Air quality average
2022 average US AQI
2022 average PM2.5 concentration in Greece: 3.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|2022 Greece cleanest city|| Corfu , Ionian Islands|
|2022 Greece most polluted city|| Vasilika , Central Macedonia|
Greece, known officially as the Hellenic republic, is a country located in the Southeastern region of Europe, sharing borders with other countries such as Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The country is renowned as being the birthplace of western civilization as well as democratic thought, having lent itself to a significant amount of cultural, historical and artistic influence that flourished throughout the western world. With a long recorded history, as well as many different cultures and kingdoms having passed through, Greece nowadays stands as a developed country with a high rating on the human development index. On an economic level, despite being subject to a disastrous debt crisis that occurred in recent times, it still has a strong economy and many different industries that supply countries round the world with their produce. With some 10.7 million people estimated to be living in Greece, as well as a significant presence in the tourism, food produce and shipping and exportation industry, Greece is subject to some problems regarding its air pollution levels as a result of this.
With large amounts of industry coupled with anthropogenic movement, Greece sees a lowered level of air quality, with many various sources all contributing to these pollution buildups, some of which will be discussed in following. Regarding the PM2.5 levels taken across the various cities registered in Greece, cities such as Thessaloniki and Agios Pavlos stand out, with some of the higher readings taken country wide.
Thessaloniki came in with a PM2.5 reading of 23.3 μg/m³ as its yearly average over the course of 2019, a reading that put it into the ‘moderate’ ratings bracket, one which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. Agios Pavlos also came in with a similar reading of 22.8 μg/m³, placing it in the same ratings bracket and with both of them coming in at 704th place and 729th place out of all countries ranked worldwide, rankings that whilst they are not extreme in nature, still represent a less than appreciable level of air quality that could have potential adverse effects on the population, particularly regarding more vulnerable demographics of people.
Greece itself came in with a yearly reading of 22.50 μg/m³ over the course of 2019, also placing it in the moderate ratings bracket and putting it in 36th place out of all countries ranked worldwide. This is quite a high rating when compared to many countries in Europe, coming in way ahead of other European nations (with the U.K coming in at 78th place, and Germany at 74th place). This is an indicator that Greece is subject to some levels of pollution and reduced air quality that it could certainly stand to improve, coming in just behind Chile, Laos and Peru.
Some of the more significant causes of air pollution in Greece stem from sources ranging from vehicular fumes and emissions to natural events such as forest fires, as were witnessed in Athens in 2007. To touch upon pollution caused by vehicles, this is a source that finds itself as one of the major contributors to all countries worldwide, so much so that during the era of the covid-19 imposed lockdowns of 2020, many cities throughout the world saw massive reductions in pollution levels due to the reduction in vehicular use, so much so that even geographical features such as distant mountain ranges that were obscured for over 2 decades reappearing, a feat that was observed in several cities in India.
With large amounts of personal vehicles such as cars and motorbikes inhabiting the roads, as well as heavy duty vehicles such as buses, trucks and lorries being present to ferry tourists around, as well as for the transportation of industrial goods for mass export as well as import, subsequent high volumes of exhaust fumes would permeate the air, creating dangerous buildups around areas that see a high volume of traffic. Furthermore, many of these vehicles run on fossil fuels such as diesel, which can create larger amounts of pollution than one would typically find in a cleaner or more sustainable fuel source. Of note is that in more provincial areas, the use of diesel fuel would certainly be more prevalent, compounded by widespread use of older cars and motorbikes that can leak larger amounts of oil vapors and noxious fumes than a newer or more up to date model would.
Other sources of pollution include industrial zones, power plants and factories. Power plants typical run on fossil fuels such as coal, and can see large spikes in energy demand during the colder months of winter, more prominent in the northern regions of Greece where the winters are less temperate. With a subsequent higher demand for energy for the heating of both homes and businesses, these power plants would go through a higher amount of coal and give off more pollution as a result.
As well as this, the numerous factories and manufacturing facilities across the country would also give out their own large amounts of pollutants, utilizing heavy machinery that runs off of diesel, as well as coal for their own energy needs. Factories can also release their own unique industrial chemicals based on what good is being manufactured, treated or packaged, with factories that deal in any form of plastic creation or recycling putting out burnt plastic fumes, to use one as an example. Other sources would be the widespread use of burning wood for heating, a leftover from the debt crisis era when the soaring costs of electricity for heating forced many people to turn back to more traditional methods of keeping warm.
Once again referring to the cities of Thessaloniki as well as Agios Pavlos, looking at the data gathered over the course of 2019, a pattern can be seen as to when the pollution levels are at their highest. Other cities will be referenced, but for a more prominent example due to their higher PM2.5 readings, these cities will be referred to primarily.
As is typical in many countries and cities that see their winters approach towards the end of the year, in direct correlation to this, Thessaloniki saw its PM2.5 levels start to creep up at the years end. September came in with a PM2.5 reading of 18.5 μg/m³, which was followed by a leap up to 27.2 μg/m³ in October, quite a significant change in pollution levels. This continued on with readings of 22.9 μg/m³ in November and 31.5 μg/m³ in December. Agios Pavlos had even more prominent changes occurring, with readings of 18.8 μg/m³ in September jumping up to 39.3 μg/m³ in October, a number that placed the city in the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket for that particular month. This rating requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ for classification, and as the name indicates, presents some hazards to those who fall into the vulnerable demographic, which includes young children, the elderly, pregnant women as well as those with preexisting conditions or compromised immune systems.
In closing, there were 6 cities registered in Greece that saw PM2.5 ratings in the unhealthy for sensitive groups bracket over the course of 2019, and they all occurred in the months between October through to March, indicating that the period of higher pollution follows accordingly with the coldest months, with pollution levels rising in October and continuing into April of the following year, before they drop back down again to more appreciable levels. The most polluted month registered in the entire year of 2019 was February in Thessaloniki, with a PM2.5 reading of 46.2 μg/m³ having been recorded.
As mentioned previously, the pollution levels present across Greece started to abate between the months of March and April, improving rapidly in many cities. To use the most polluted city as an example once again, Thessaloniki was recorded with a PM2.5 reading of 33.5 μg/m³ in March, 23.8 μg/m³ in April, and 17.7 μg/m³ in May, showing the significant drops in PM2.5 levels.
PM2.5 stands for particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, going down to sizes as small as 0.001 microns across. Due to its incredibly small size as well as chemical composition depending on the material, it has the ability to cause considerable harm when respired, and as such is used as a major component for calculating the overall AQI, or air quality index. So, for the best readings of PM2.5 across the more polluted cities, they were present between the months of May and September, typically when the weather is at its warmest, although this can sometimes bring with it issues of tourism based pollution due to the mass influx of visitors during this time period.
For some cities, such as Elounda, its cleanest months were in April and May, with very respectable readings of 9 μg/m³ and 7.2 μg/m³, putting them within the World Health Organizations (WHO's) target goal of 10 μg/m³ or less, for the best quality of air. Following these months, the readings shot back up again, highlighting the differences between cities. To demonstrate the cities which reached the WHO's target goal reading and during what months they were in, Ovria was recorded at 9.3 μg/m³ in May, the only month of the year to hit the WHO's target bracket in this city.
Others of note were Patra, with a reading of 10 μg/m³ also taken in May. Ana Liosia came in with 9.5 μg/m³ in August, and Nikaia along with Rio with readings of 8.9 μg/m³ and 8.6 μg/m³ in May once again. This is indicative that in many cities across Greece, May was one of the cleanest months, and the time frame of April through to September is typically when the cleanest air quality readings came in. In closing, the city of Corfu was the cleanest city in Greece registered in 2019, with a yearly reading of 7.4 μg/m³, one that placed it in a very respectable ranking of 3657th place out of all cities worldwide, and with its cleanest month being January at 3.6 μg/m³.
With many of the cities on record in Greece coming with fairly high pollution readings over the last few years, there would be a number of adverse health issues that may arise as a result of overexposure to polluted air, particularly to those previously mentioned vulnerable groups, as well as lifestyle and location playing a part in these risks, with those living near to busy roads or industrial sites that give off large amounts of pollution being at greater risk than those living in a clean coastal city such as Corfu.
Some of these health risks would include short term ones, with smoke from vehicles and burnt organic matter causing irritation to mucous membranes, triggering off allergies or skin rashes in young children or those with a chemical sensitivity, as well as instances of coughing, chest infections or increased rates of asthma attacks amongst sufferers. Other more chronic or long term issues would be ones such as the development of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, emphysema and bronchitis, all of which fall under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) bracket.
Due to a large amount of pollution being generated by combustion sources such as vehicle engines, industrial sites and the burning of wood or other materials, there would be large amounts of fine particulate matter such as black carbon in the air, one of the main components of soot and a potent carcinogen when inhaled.
Chemicals released from vehicles consist mainly of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with nitrogen dioxide being the main offender when it comes to vehicular emissions, with large volumes of it often being found near areas of high traffic density. Others include volatile organic compounds (VOC's) such as benzene, toluene and methylene chloride. Finely ground particulate matter such as silica and gravel dust would also be present, released alongside metals such as lead or mercury from construction sites or industrial zones.
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