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|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 62 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Moscow is currently 3.5 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Sunday, Feb 18
Good 20 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 19
Good 28 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 20
Moderate 52 AQI US
Moderate 62 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 22
Good 48 AQI US
|Friday, Feb 23
Moderate 60 AQI US
|Saturday, Feb 24
Moderate 54 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 27 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 26
Good 18 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Moderate 65 AQI US
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Moscow is the capital and also the largest city in Russia. It is situated on the banks of the Moskva River in Central Russia. The population for the entire Moscow Metropolitan area was over 20 million people in 2019. This metropolitan area covers over 26,000 square kilometres making it one of the largest cities in the world.
At the end of 2020 Moscow was recording "Good" levels of air quality with a figure of 45 US AQI according to levels recommenced by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The concentration of PM2.5 which is the main pollutant was 11 µg/m³. Readings for the other pollutants are as follows: - PM10 - 11 µg/m³, ozone (O3) - 14.4 µg/m³, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - 30.9 µg/m³, sulphur dioxide (SO2) - 2.3 µg/m³ and carbon monoxide (CO) - 200 µg/m³.
The average figure for 2019 was 10 µg/m³ which is on the upper limit of the WHO target level. This figure was also attainted for 7 months of the year. 2 other months showed a "Good" reading of between 10 and 12 µg/m³ whilst the remaining three months returned a "Moderate" reading with figures between 12.1 and 35.4 µg/m³.
In Moscow, St Petersburg and other large cities in the European part of Russia, more than 80 per cent of atmospheric pollution is attributed to traffic. Although these are not the most polluted parts of Russia. The dirtiest cities are far away from the capital, situated in a seemingly idyllic setting such as Siberia and the Urals which are where the majority of the country’s mining, chemical and other heavy industries are concentrated.
In Moscow air pollution accounts for 5,000 premature deaths annually. This figure is roughly twice as many as the number of deaths caused by road accidents.
Car ownership for many Muscovites is regarded as a status symbol and it is thought that the market is still far from saturation point. Many Muscovites live in cramped rented apartments on the outskirts of the city and spend eight to ten hours a day working in their offices. They virtually “live” in their comfortable cars for between two to four hours daily. It’s comfortable inside and they can listen to their favourite music and enjoy their own space which they don’t have much opportunity to enjoy elsewhere.
In November 2020, Moscow measured its highest level of air pollution in almost 16 years. Having studied the available data, experts discovered there had been three times as many “high” and “extremely high” instances of air pollution within the first nine months of the year. This was more than the entire previous year.
Russia’s Hydrometeorology Centre, whose data was used for the study has recorded 171 “high” or “extreme” instances of air pollution which was the highest total since data was made available in 2005. In the months of July-September 125 instances were recorded which is just one fewer than in all of 2010 and is double the annual number in 2019.
A “High” level of pollution refers to the concentration of one or more pollutants at 10 times the maximum permissible levels whilst “Extreme” pollution refers to concentrations of pollutants between 20 and 50 times the allowable levels. At such times, the pollutants can be detected by smell. Acid rain can also be produced under these conditions.
Following the World Cup in 2018, Greenpeace Russia conducted a survey and found that 82 per cent of Muscovites were dissatisfied with their air quality. A similar percentage were well-aware that vehicle emissions are the primary cause of air pollution. Fortunately, the local government is becoming increasingly aware of the general feeling of unrest toward this situation. The transition to a greener public transportation network has begun.
Restrictions have been proposed which would prohibit heavily-polluting vehicles from entering the city. Any vehicle below the Euro-3 emission standard would be barred. One of the key components towards a cleaner city would be the introduction of low emission zones. Under this ambitious plan, air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) vehicle emissions would be reduced by 25 per cent. The city has installed almost 80 electric vehicle charging stations, with a similar number planned for installation in the coming years.
It is hoped that Moscow will introduce more pedestrianised areas and introduce cycle lanes or tracks to encourage this clean mode of transportation.
Due to the lack of access to information about air quality, public protests against air pollution in Moscow are seldom seen. What protests do take place often concentrate either on companies known to be guilty of polluting the atmosphere and new infrastructure projects such as motorways, or the protection of threatened green zones.
The current protest campaigns are with regards to a new stadium which is planned to be built on the site of the existing Park Druzhby (Friendship Park); a road to be built across the 18th century French style Kuskovo Park which is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Moscow and the felling of trees in Kokoshkino, a village incorporated in the recent expansion of the capital known as "New Moscow".
Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of health problems ranging from mild coughs and wheezes to respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer. The severity of the effects depends a lot on the concentration of the pollutants and the length of time exposed to it.
Some basic precautions would be to wear a good quality face mask when venturing outside when the air is heavily polluted. Closing doors and windows will help prevent the ingress of the dirty air. Outdoor exercise should be avoided at these times, instead, consider exercising in the local shopping mall by walking through the concourse and up and down the staircases.
An air purifier could be considered if the frequency becomes too often. These are available both for the home and the car.
1 Data source