Assessment of air quality in Poland in 2022

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The Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection has published a report entitled “Assessment of air quality in zones in Poland for the year 2022,” which summarizes the results of the annual evaluation. The data presented shows that air quality in relation to all types of pollution has improved.

Air quality assessment – survey methodology

Annual air quality assessments are performed for substances for which normative values of air concentrations (permissible/target/long-term goal levels) have been set by national law and EU directives.

The assessment of air quality is carried out taking into account the criteria defined due to:

  • Protection of human health,
  • plant protection.

The air quality assessment for 2022 in the criteria established to protect human health included 12 substances: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, ozone, PM10 particulate matter, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and benzo(a)pyrene in PM10 particulate matter and PM2.5 particulate matter. In contrast, the 2022 air quality assessment, conducted for meeting the criteria established for plant protection, included 3 substances: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone. The basis of the assessment for each pollutant was the criteria set forth in the Regulation of the Minister of Environment of August 24, 2012 on the levels of certain substances in the air.

Assessment of air quality in Poland in 2022 – summary of report results

Last year, according to the report, there were fewer exceedances of acceptable air quality standards and the extent of exceedance areas. Air quality has improved, among other things, thanks to measures introduced at the local, regional and national levels to reduce emissions of air pollutants and thanks to more favorable meteorological conditions.

Air quality assessment by zone

Air quality assessment is carried out by 46 zones, and the result is the assignment of a class of assessed pollutants (as defined in the appendix to the Law – Environmental Protection Law) to each zone. The results of the classification translate into specific requirements for measures to improve or maintain air quality. The assignment of class A to a zone means that no exceedances of the normative concentration values of a given pollutant were found in the zone in a specific year. Assignment of class C means that corrective actions must be carried out in this zone and in this class.

According to the 2022 assessment, for sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, ozone, and lead, cadmium and nickel, contained in PM10 particulate matter, all zones in the country were classified as A. The vast majority of zones were also classified as A for: nitrogen dioxide (42) and arsenic (44). For the other pollutants assessed, the number of zones classified in the highest category was smaller. 32 zones were classified as A for PM10 particulate matter, 35 zones for PM2.5 particulate matter, taking into account the phase II permissible level in force from 2020, and 14 zones for benzo(a)pyrene contained in PM10 particulate matter.

The 2022 assessment showed that 34 of the 46 zones recorded exceedances of normative concentrations for one or more pollutants, resulting in the assignment of a C class to the zone, which means that corrective measures must be carried out.

Main air pollutants

The pollutant for which, in 2022, as in previous years, the largest number of zones in the country were classified as Class C is benzo(a)pyrene. Thirty-two of the 46 units qualified here. The widespread occurrence of higher-than-normal concentrations of B(a)P in PM10 particulate matter is associated with winter emissions from individual residential and home heating systems using solid fuels. The main contributors are solid fuel stoves with low energy efficiency and high emissions of pollutants, including dust and B(a)P.

Impact of air pollution on water quality

Air pollution has a negative impact on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, degrading the environment and reducing biodiversity. Gaseous compounds, such as airborne nitrogen oxides and ammonia, are deposited on the ground surface and in water bodies, causing excessive amounts of nitrogen to enter them. As a result, the process of eutrophication intensifies in the waters – excess nutrients cause algal blooms and reduce the availability of oxygen. It should also be mentioned that the deposition of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia changes the chemical composition of soils, lakes, rivers and seawater in a process called acidification, which disrupts ecosystems and leads to a loss of biodiversity. This phenomenon results in acid precipitation, which drastically alters environmental conditions.

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