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2022 Air quality average
Unhealthy for sensitive groups
2022 average US AQI
2022 average PM2.5 concentration in United Arab Emirates: 9.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|2022 United Arab Emirates cleanest city|| Dubai , Dubai|
|2022 United Arab Emirates most polluted city|| Ras Al Khaimah , Ra's al Khaymah|
United Arab Emirates, otherwise known as the UAE or more simply Emirates, is a countrylocated in the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. It shares borders withother countries such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well as facing onto the Persian Gulf.
In regards to its levels of pollution, Emirates came in with a countrywide reading of 38.94 μg/m³in 2019, in regards to its levels of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 refers toparticulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making itapproximately 3% the size of an average human hair. Due to this incrediblysmall size, PM2.5 is a major component in the calculation of overall airpollution levels due to the danger it poses on the health of people who breatheit. As such it will be referred to for assessing the air quality levels in the UAE.
The aforementioned PM2.5 reading of 38.94 μg/m³ was enough to place UAE into the‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ pollution bracket, which requires a reading ofanywhere between 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ to be classed as such. This shows thatdespite being placed into a somewhat negative ratings bracket, that posessignificant health risks to vulnerable portions of the population, it came inon the lower end of it, with a few units less enough to move it down to the‘moderate’ ratings bracket, perhaps attainable in the near future with moregreen initiatives being put into place across the various cities.
Emirates 2019 reading of 38.94 μg/m³ placed it into 12th place out of allcountries ranked worldwide, coming in just behind China and Iraq. The mostpolluted city in the UAE was Dubai, which also came in with a PM2.5 reading of40.9 μg/m³, putting it into the same grouping bracket (unhealthy for sensitivegroups) as well as 222nd place out of all cities ranked worldwide.
With its 12th place position, it is indicative that the UAE is suffering from a number ofpollution related issues, many of them having become more prominent over thelast few years, due largely in part to how their economy is based, as well asthe unsustainable nature of many activities going on within the country.
As its group name suggests, citizens who have a disposition towards being affected bypollution levels will be particularly at risk, with young children, expectantmothers, the elderly and unwell all fitting the bill for those who could sufferadverse effects as a result of breathing unclean air in the country. Whilstthere are certainly pollutive issues, there are some cities that do come inwith better qualities of air, such as Ras Al Khaimah, with certain months ofits year coming in with readings that fell within the World HealthOrganizations (WHO) target goal for clean air, which will be discussed in detail shortly.
So, to close, the United Arab Emirates has its own fair share of pollution problems, that arepertinent enough for them to start taking large steps towards trying to rectify the situation.
Emirates sees its main causes of pollution being similar in nature to many countries in theregion as well as the rest of the world, whilst having several factors uniqueto it as a nation due to socio-cultural elements of the newly developed aspects of its society.
Among the more common causes of pollution would be the ever present factor of vehicularemissions, particularly prominent in cities such as Dubai where personalvehicles are crucial for day to day life to navigate the city, with vehicleownership and their emissions staying consistently high (although of note thatover the 2020 lockdown period, significant improvements were seen in pollutionlevels with the widescale movement restrictions taking place, showing just howmuch of an effect human movement and subsequent pollutive output has on the environment).
Other main causes of pollution are industrial sites, with numerous factories andprocessing plants dotting the different cities across the country, many ofwhich would run off of fossil fuels such as coal or diesel (along with manyheavy duty vehicles such as lorries, trucks and buses also running off diesel,contributing further to pollution levels).
With much of UAE’s economy based around the extraction and use of natural resources, it isinevitable that the continuation of this industry would not only lead todegradation of the environment, but also a further worsening of air pollutionlevels over the previous decades. With a boom in population as wellinfrastructure, there would be the subsequent large scale building of houses,flats, hotels and factories, all of which would require energy supplied by theburning of their natural resources.
The combustion of coal and diesel leads to large amounts of chemical compounds andfine particulate matters entering into the atmosphere, causing widespreadpollution problems. So, in finishing, vehicular usage, factory emissions, aswell as other smaller contributing factors such as geography and meteorologicalconditions playing a part (with a lack of trees and precipitation not helpingin regards to cleaning the air out), as well as widespread overuse of naturalresources due to their abundance in the region.
Observing the data taken across the four registered cities in the country, a pattern emergesregarding spikes in pollution or PM2.5 numbers. Using data taken from Dubai andAbu Dhabi, the middle portion of the year is when pollution is at its highestin both of them, something that is also apparent in the city of Sharjah. FromApril to May, a significant worsening of PM2.5 readings are shown, with bothDubai and Abu Dhabi coming in at 23.9 μg/m³ and 26.5 μg/m³ in May respectively.From thereon, this number climbed up to 44.1 μg/m³ and 41.2 μg/m³ in acrossboth cities in June, readings that represent a jump of nearly double that of the previous month.
These elevated readings coincide with the summer season in UAE, with extremely hightemperatures and high humidity becoming prominent, both of which can compoundpollution levels, with the high heat and excesses of strong sunlight causingchemical reactions to take place on the ground level, creating pollutants such as ozone (O3) to form.
Referring back to the two cities, the pollution levels continue to rise in June, withDubai going from 44.1 μg/m³ in May to 59 μg/m³ in June. This new readingrepresents a jump up into another grouping, the ‘unhealthy’ ratings group whichrequires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³ to beclassified as such. These unhealthy rated months continue until August, withreadings of 55.7 μg/m³ in July as well as 58 μg/m³ in August. This shows thatJune was the most polluted month of the year in 2019 for Dubai, with Abu Dhabialso seeing its most polluted month in August at 55.7 μg/m³.
The city of Sharjah also saw its most polluted month in June with a reading of 51.1 μg/m³,whilst the cleanest city out of the whole country, Ras Al Khaimah, was at itsmost polluted in October at 48 μg/m³. all of these readings are indicative thatthe summer months are when pollution levels will be at their worst, with thehigh humidity and extreme heat compounding the pollutive issues of caremissions and well as smoke from factories and other industries.
The air quality is very poor at this time and those who have a sensitivity towardschemicals and pollutants would be well off in taking preventative measures suchas the wearing of high quality particle filtering masks, as available on site, or by staying upto date on daily pollution readings via the use of the AirVisual app.
As touched on previously, the cleanest city in the whole country is Ras Al Khaimah, whichcame in with a yearly average of 20.9 μg/m³ over 2019, putting it in themoderate ratings bracket. This may be largely due to its geographical location,being at the northernmost point of the country and famous for its beaches, thusbeing subject to the strong coastal winds that come with such a location.
It saw the cleanest readings of air in the UAE from the months of January through toApril, with readings of 9.9 μg/m³, 8.2 μg/m³, 9 μg/m³ and 11.1 μg/m³respectively, making February the cleanest month out of the entire year andwith 3 of those months coming within the WHO’s target goal, as well as Aprilcoming in with a ‘good’ air quality rating, which requires a very fine marginof 10 to 12 μg/m³ to be classified as such. To close, the first four months ofthe year in Ras Al Khaimah is where the cleanest level of air quality can be found in the UAE, out of all cities registered so far.
With nearly all of its pollution arising as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, muchof the pollutants in the air in the UAE would be based around the combustion ofthese materials. There would be other factors such as fine particulate mattersemanating from areas such as construction sites or building up in areas of hightraffic, with ones such as finely ground silica dust being a prominent (andcarcinogenic) form of PM10 or PM2.5 coming from construction sites, as well asblack carbon finding its creation from the combustion of fossil fuels, and assuch would be emitted from both vehicles that run on diesel, as well as factories and industrial areas.
Other materials released from the combustion of coal include volatile organiccompounds (VOC’s) which can include among them chemicals such as benzene,formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, methylene chloride and ethylene glycol. All ofthese have a highly detrimental effect on human health, and due to their‘volatile’ nature are able to become gases at much lower temperatures, thusmaking them easier to respire and of greater risk to those that do.
Other pollutants found in the air include nitrogen and sulfur dioxides, released fromboth vehicles as well as the burning of coal. Other contaminants released bythe combustion of coal includes heavy and dangerous metals such as lead,mercury and cadmium. Other pollutants would include ozone (O3),caused largely by the buildup of vehicle fumes on the roads and when subject tothe high levels of heat and solar radiation, undergo a reaction and covert intoozone. Whilst it is a vital component in the stratosphere, on ground level itcan cause significant damage to people who inhale it, with lung damage, chestpain and throat irritation all being possible upon short term exposure.
These would be but a small number of pollutants found in the air, with ones such asnitrogen dioxide (NO2) being the most prominent due to the largeamounts of traffic related pollution built up in the major cities.
With pollutants such as ozone and black carbon present in the troposphere (groundlevel), as mentioned before, ozone can cause instant respiratory distress tothose that are exposed to it, and with its formation dependent on preexistingchemicals reacting with high levels of sunlight, ozone thus finds its creation in abundance on ground level in the UAE.
Prolonged exposure to ozone can cause raised instances of premature death, particularlyto those who are caught in areas where large amount of ozone formation takesplace, or even downwind of it. Of note is that nitrogen dioxide along withVOC’s are large contributors to the creation of ozone.
Besides these heightened mortality rates, it can cause shortness of breath and obstruction tothe airways, aggravated asthma attacks, inflammation to the lung tissue as wellas a greater susceptibility to throat and chest infections. Those withpreexisting medical conditions will be at even greater risk and may findthemselves returning to hospital far more often due to their illnesses progressively becoming worse.
With the aforementioned black carbon also being present in the air, particularly inareas of high traffic as well as near industrial sites, damage can occur to thelung tissues as well as the rest of the body, due to the incredibly small sizeof this particulate matter, able to cross over the blood barrier via the lungsand make its way to the rest of the body via the circulatory system. This wouldcause damage to the blood vessels, the kidneys and liver as well as affectingthe reproductive system. These are but a few of the possible negative healtheffects that arise when exposed to higher levels of pollution in the United Arab Emirates.
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