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2022 Air quality average
2022 average US AQI
2022 average PM2.5 concentration in Hungary: 2.5 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|2022 Hungary cleanest city
| Ajka , Central Transdanubia
|2022 Hungary most polluted city
| Kazincbarcika , Northern Hungary
Hungary is a country located in the central portion of Europe, bordering other countries such as Slovakia, Romania and Austria. It has a long history of being inhabited by various ethnic groups that make up the genetic background of European peoples, with the official state of Hungary having been established in the later period of the ninth century A.D.
It is considered as a developed nation, with a good degree of health care and educational infrastructure. It attracts millions of tourists each year, with other strong economies focusing around export and foreign trade. As well as a large amount of export taking place, it has a foothold in major industry production centered around the manufacturing (and exporting) of food products, medicines and pharmaceuticals, vehicles, industrial machinery and electronic goods. Due to a large amount of exportation and industrial production taking place, subsequently there would be elevated levels of pollution occurring as a result, with anthropogenic activities causing PM2.5 levels to rise in the air on both the ground level and further up in the atmosphere.
Looking at the data taken over the course of 2019, Hungary came in with a PM2.5 reading of 14.57 μg/m³, putting it into the ‘moderate’ ratings bracket, one which requires a reading of any number between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. This indicates that Hungary came in on the lower end of the moderate spectrum, only being 2.57 units away from moving into the ‘good’ ratings bracket, a fine margin of entry which requires a reading of anywhere between 10 to 12 μg/m³ to achieve classification.
PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making it roughly 3% the size of a human hair and thus extremely small and easy to respire. It has the possibility to go down to sizes as small as 0.001 microns or less, and due to the size and danger associated with breathing it, it is used as a major component in the calculation of overall pollution levels, alongside other materials and compounds such as PM10, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and ozone. Due to its prevalence and ease of detection, PM2.5 will be used to explain the levels of air pollution in Hungary in this article.
Hungary’s PM2.5 reading of 14.57 μg/m³ placed it in 66th place out of all countries ranked worldwide, coming in just behind other countries such as Argentina and Colombia. The most polluted city in Hungary, Miskolc, came in with a PM2.5 average of 21.9 μg/m³ over the course of 2019, placing it in 779th place out of all cities ranked worldwide.
So, whilst Hungary at its cities do not see any catastrophic levels of pollution, as may be witnessed in countries such as India or Mongolia, it still stands to reason that for a European nation, their pollution levels are quite elevated, and as such they have a pollutant problem that could certainly be improved upon, if Hungary is to aim for more optimal levels of air quality in the coming years.
Hungary sees many different sources of pollution coming together to form the elevated readings of PM2.5 as recorded over the last few years, with some sources being more prominent than others and being considered as main contributors, whilst there are a number of smaller contributing causes that are not overtly damaging in their own right, but when continued year round, will assist in the raising of the ambient pollution levels and thus the higher readings of pollution present.
One of these causes is that of vehicular emissions, with millions of cars populating the roads up and down the country all putting out their own forms of pollution, with more outdated engines in motorbikes and old cars being responsible for putting out far more soot and chemical pollutants due to inefficient combustion of the fuel taking place. This is certainly something more pertinent in rural areas, with many vehicles being used way past their best days, not subject to the more stringent rules that a major city might impose on its road users.
Heavy duty vehicles can also contribute massively to pollution levels, and with much of its economy taking place around the exportation of goods, there will inevitably be massive use of heavy duty vehicles such as trucks and lorries to transport these goods and produce to another destination, across the border or to an airport. These vehicles more often than not will utilize diesel as their main source, and as such have a greater amount of pollutive output associated with their use.
Other important causes of pollution include the so called ‘chimney smoke’ epidemic taking place across rural Hungary, with hundreds of thousands of traditional homes using their fireplaces and stoves to burn materials such as wood and charcoal to provide heat during the colder months, as well as for cooking and other domestic uses.
Finally, alongside the vehicle emissions, the other main contributor to air pollution in Hungary is that of power plants and factories, with vast amounts of coal being used to supply energy to the numerous homes and businesses countrywide (with an increase in use during the winter months due to the cold weather and subsequent demand for heating, which requires greater energy expenditure). These power plants can emit large amounts sulfur oxides into the air, due to high sulfur content fuels also being burnt alongside coal and diesel to provide power.
Aside from power plants, factories also have a similar issue when it comes to the burning of these fuels, and aside from that they can also release any industrial effluence associated with whatever product is material is being produced (as an example, any factory dealing with plastic products or casing, or even recycling, will inevitably release burnt plastic fumes into the atmosphere, and the same goes for metal foundries and so on).
These are the main causes of pollution in Hungary that are more responsible for the elevated readings of PM2.5 seen. Other minor ones would include pollution and fine particulate matter released from construction sites and road repairs, with the heavy machinery used for these also running on diesel fuels, as well as construction sites being a hotbed for the release of finely ground gravel and silica dust, as well as heavy metals and microplastics.
Observing the data taken over the course of 2019 as a good indicator of pollution levels in Hungary (due to 2020 not being fully accurate in its readings due to worldwide lockdowns occurring because of the covid-19 pandemic. Whilst this was great for the reduction in pollution levels, it created a situation that is not truly indicative of normal daily pollution levels in Hungary, and as such 2019 will be used for more relevant data and information).
Looking at the various cities recorded across the country, a clear pattern of rising and falling pollution starts to appear, with spikes appearing at certain times of the year, correlating with a change in the weather. To use the most polluted city in the country as an example, Miskolc saw a change in its pollution levels starting around October, with a sudden and rapid deterioration in its air quality. In the month prior, September came in with a PM2.5 reading of 11.5 μg/m³, putting it into a respectable ‘good’ ratings category. This was followed by a significant jump in October up to 28.7 μg/m³, a jump of more than double the amount, and then further rises up to 30.7 μg/m³ in November, and 35.4 μg/m³ in December.
These elevations in pollution continued on into the next year (even though 2019 is still being used for reference, it can be assumed down to a fine margin of error that the pollution readings would follow the same pattern), with January coming in at an even more elevated reading of 36.7 μg/m³, followed by the most polluted month of the year, February, coming in with a reading of 42.2 μg/m³, a number that put it fairly high up in the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket, one of only two months out of the entire year to achieve this rating.
So, from this we can ascertain that pollution levels start to deteriorate in October, and as such October through to March of the next year are when pollution levels are at their worst, with March showing a decent drop in pollution levels, with the following months hitting more respectable levels of air quality. As such, the winter months are when pollution levels are at their worst in Hungary.
To follow on directly from the previous question, as stated, March is when pollution levels drop from their higher readings and start to return to much cleaner readings of PM2.5. Although the city of Miskolc was used primarily for ascertaining when Hungary is at its most polluted, of note is that every single city followed the same pattern of pollution, just not as exaggerated in their numbers as Miskolc.
To use other cities as examples, both Miskolc, Szolnok and Szeged came in with PM2.5 readings of 42.2 μg/m³, 27 μg/m³ and 21.4 μg/m³ in February, followed by readings of 20 μg/m³, 15.9 μg/m³ and 14.2 μg/m³ in March respectively, showing that every single one of them reported similar drops in pollution levels, and this was true for every other city in Hungary.
To refer back to Miskolc as an example and for simplicity of explanation, the most prominent drop in air pollution was seen in May, with a reading of 9.5 μg/m³, placing that month within the World Health Organizations (WHO's) target goal for great air quality of 10 μg/m³ or lower. This occurred in seven out of eight cities registered in Hungary, with the only exception (in the city of Kecskemet) just being 0.3 units shy of achieving the WHO's target goal. These lowered readings continued on until September, when as mentioned the pollution levels started to take a turn for the worst.
So, between the months of April to September is when all the cities in Hungary see their best readings of pollution, with May being the month that saw the most cities come in with the WHO's target rating. The cleanest reading of PM2.5 taken in the entire country was also during May, taking place in the city of Szentgotthard, with a reading of just 5.7 μg/m³, making it the cleanest month and location out of the entire year in Hungary over 2019.
With readings in Hungary going as high as 42.2 μg/m³ and 36.7 μg/m³ in one city, and with a large amount of readings coming in at the moderate pollution bracket, there would be a sizeable number of health risks associated with those who are exposed for longer periods of time to high levels of pollution. This may include people who live in areas that see a lot of chimney smoke, or those who live near busy roads.
As it stands, any measure of PM2.5 over 10 μg/m³ has an increased chance of causing harm, and indeed the higher you go the more these chances have the opportunity to take hold. Some problems associated with breathing polluted air in Hungary would include irritation to mucous membranes, with skin, eyes, nose and mouth all being at risk for chemical or particle based irritation. Rates of cancer would increase, particularly that of the lungs and throat, as well as other respiratory distress. Factories burning coal can produce large amounts of black carbon, a fine particulate matter that if inhaled can cause rapid aging and scarring of the lungs, reducing their function and making the person more susceptible to respiratory ailments down the line.
Some of these issues may include ones such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and aggravated asthma attacks, with sulfur dioxide coming from high sulfur fuels able to cause damage to the lung tissue as well, also reducing their full function and reducing life expectancy.
Due to its incredibly small size, black carbon, and indeed many forms of PM2.5 can enter deep into the lung tissue, whereby they can pass over into the bloodstream via the blood barrier in the alveoli. From here all manner of health issues can take place, with damage to the blood vessels, ischemic heart disease, heart attacks and arrythmias all being possible.
These are but a few of the health problems associated with breathing polluted air in Hungary, and as mentioned, during the cleaner periods of the year, the chances of such events rapidly decrease, and then increase again significantly as the pollution levels rise. As such, preventative measures become ever more important, and staying up to date on pollution levels via air quality maps available on the IQAir website as well as the AirVisual app would go a long way in helping individuals to make informed decisions regarding whether to undertake outdoor activities on certain days, or wear fine particle filtering masks if necessary.
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