At present ambient air pollution is one of the most serious
problems in the field of environmental protection. Polluted air
has evidently negative effects on human health; the pollutants
can cause a wide range of health problems from less serious to
serious diseases and premature deaths. The pollutants have
negative effects also on vegetation; they can influence its
growth and cause the decrease of yields of agricultural crops
and forests. They also cause eutrophication and acidification of
soil and water ecosystems1, followed by the change in species
composition and the reduction of plant and animal species. Many
pollutants have the ability to accumulate in the environment, to
negatively influence the ecosystems and to enter the food chain.
Further, some of them have direct or indirect influence on the
climatic system of the Earth. It is also necessary to mention
the damages caused by ambient air pollutants to materials and
buildings, often the historical ones.
Thanks to the measures implemented in the recent decades mainly in large sources, the pollutants’ emissions have been reduced. In spite of that a number of economic and social activities still produce such amount of emissions which in combination with meteorological and dispersion conditions result in exceedances of the limit values of some pollutants. At present the biggest problem among the monitored pollutants is represented by suspended particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons bound to them. In summer periods the limit values of ground-level ozone are exceeded in many localities.
Generally, local household heating using solid fuels is the significant source of suspended particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (in total in EU countries as well as in the Czech Republic). In the areas with traffic loads there may occur increased concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. Transport is also the important source of suspended particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. There still remain the significant sources of pollutants, and namely public and industrial energetics, agriculture and in case of NMVOC the use of solvents. However, the particular share of individual sources in the level of air pollution differs from area to area, according to the composition of sources in the given area but it also depends on the transfer of pollutants from other areas.
I.1 OBJECTIVES OF THE PUBLICATION
The yearbook “Air Pollution in the Czech Republic in 2013” is
presented in a new structure and with partly changed content.
The purpose of this change is to bring more explicit
interpretation of the measured data and to give more space for
the most important message of this publication, i.e. for the
information on the state of ambient air quality in the CR and
its development. The introductory part of the publication
describes the political and legislative framework of the
protection of ambient air quality in the CR, the characteristics
of major pollutants with regard to their possible effects on
human health and the environment, and the key phenomena
influencing the levels of ambient air pollutants, i.e. the
sources of air pollution and meteorological and dispersion
conditions in the given year. The main part of the publication
is devoted to ambient air quality and the occurrence of smog
situations in the CR. The chapters dealing with no less
important topics, such as atmospheric deposition and greenhouse
gas emissions are included in the final part of the publication.
Information on the database, the used methods and uncertainty in
mapping are presented in the last two chapters.
The graphic yearbook “Air Pollution in the Czech Republic in 2013”, together with the annual “Summary Tabular Survey” published in electronic version, constitute the complete overview of data and information on ambient air quality in the territory of the Czech Republic in the respective year. The ambient air quality evaluation is based on the measured data, collected in the Air Quality Information System (ISKO) of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI), using other data sources and mathematical tools. The “Summary Tabular Survey” presents the verified measured air pollution data and data on chemical composition of atmospheric precipitation in individual localities, the graphic yearbook presents commented comprehensive information in the form of maps, graphs and tables.
Ambient air quality is evaluated strictly pursuant to the valid national legislation (Act No. 201/2012 Coll., on air protection, as amended, and the Decree No. 330/2012 Coll. on the method of assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution level, on the extent of informing the public on the level of ambient air pollution and during smog situations) and pursuant to the requirements of the European Union. The evaluation is carried out with regard to the protection of human health and with regard to the protection of ecosystems and vegetation. The result maps are the necessary prerequisite for the indication of the areas exceeding the limit values with regard to the protection of human health for which programmes aimed at the improvement of ambient air quality or regulatory codes are required by the legislation.
The yearbooks on ambient air quality are primarily intended for the bodies and organizations concerned with environmental issues and ambient air protection in the CR. They are periodically provided to the bodies of state administration, to all contributors to the ISKO database and further selected entities. The yearbooks are publicly available on the CHMI website, www.chmi.cz.
I.2 POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK OF AMBIENT AIR QUALITY PROTECTION
The extent of air pollution is objectively ascertained by
monitoring the concentrations of ambient air pollutants (air
pollution monitoring) in the ground layer of the atmosphere
within the network of measuring stations (Fig. I.1; more details
see Chapter XI.). For the pollutants monitored and evaluated
with regard to provable harmful effects on human health or on
vegetation and ecosystems their limit values have been set.
Within air quality evaluation there are compared mainly the
recorded levels of concentrations with the respective limit
values (Tabs. I.1 and
I.2) or with the permissible frequencies
of exceeding them, i.e. the levels of concentrations which
should not be exceeded pursuant to the valid legislation.
The basic strategic document in the EU in the field of ambient air quality assessment and management is the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (hereinafter the Strategy). The objective of the Strategy, in accordance with the 6th Environment Action Programme (EAP), is to achieve „the level of ambient air quality which does not give rise to the risks for human health and the environment and does not have markedly negative impacts on them.” Based on the 2005 Strategy the European Commission carried out the review of the current EU policy in the field of ambient air protection. This resulted in the adoption of the package of measures (Clean Air Policy Package) in December 2013. The package contains for instance the programme document ”Clean Air for Europe” with new objectives concerning ambient air quality for the period up to 2030, the draft of the revision of the directive on national emissions ceilings with stricter national emissions ceilings for six major pollutants, or the draft of the new directive on the reduction of pollution caused by medium-sized combustion sources (EC 2013a).
Within the EU framework the main tools for the protection and improvement of ambient air quality include: Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, Directive 2004/107/EC relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air, and Directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants.
The national legislation on air quality evaluation in the Czech
Republic is harmonized with the European legislation. The Act
No. 201/2012 Coll., on air protection, as amended (hereinafter
the Air Protection Act) defines among others the zones and
agglomerations for ambient air quality evaluation. The details
are specified in the Decree No. 330/2012 Coll., on the method of
assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution level, on the
extent of informing the public on the level of ambient air
pollution and during smog situations.
Zones and agglomeration are primarily understood as basic units for air quality management. The Air Protection Act defines three agglomerations – agglomeration of Prague, agglomeration of Brno and Ostrava/Karviná/Frýdek-Místek agglomeration – and seven zones (Fig. I.2).
The yearbook presents air quality evaluation in the year 2013 pursuant to the requirements of the Czech legislation on air quality protection. In accordance with the Air Protection Act the evaluation is aimed at defining the areas with exceedances of the limit values for the protection of health and the protection of ecosystems and vegetation. If the limit value is exceeded in a zone or agglomeration or if the limit value is exceeded in the zone or agglomeration more times than the set maximum number of exceedances, the Ministry of the Environment is obliged to develop, in cooperation with the respective regional or local authority, the programme aimed at the improvement of air quality for the given zone or agglomeration within 18 months following the end of the calendar year in which the limit value was exceeded. During the programme development the Ministry adopts the respective measures in order the limit value is met as soon as possible.
The limit values are based on the recommended (guideline) values set by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the basis of a number of epidemiological studies (Table I.3). In order to protect public health the WHO recommends maintaining the pollutants’ levels even on the lower value than that for which the negative effects on human health were documented. Nevertheless, these values result from the conclusions regarding the health effects of ambient air pollution and do not take into account the issues of technical and economic feasibility and further political and social factors. Therefore, the levels of the limit values set by the legislation may be higher, but the process heading towards the meeting of the WHO guideline values must be generally supported (WHO 2013).
I.3 AMBIENT AIR POLLUTANTS AND THEIR EFFECTS
Ambient air pollution is one of the factors that participate in
affecting the human health. This may be manifested by occurrence
or worsening of subjective symptoms or objective health
disorders potentially contributed to some extent by exposure to
substances from ambient air through the respiratory tract (SZÚ
Health effects may include slight temporary changes in the respiratory tract and the impaired pulmonary function, reduced performance, the need to find first aid, hospitalization or even death. There is growing evidence of adverse effects of air pollution not only on the respiratory system but also on cardiovascular system. Some pollutants have carcinogenic effect influencing the function of endocrine glands, the development and growth of foetus (SZÚ 2013a).
As mentioned above, ambient air pollutants have negative effects also on vegetation and ecosystems, many pollutants have the ability to accumulate in the environment or cause damages to materials and buildings.
Fig. I.1 Major station networks of ambient air quality monitoring, 2013
Fig. I.2 The zones and agglomerations for ambient air quality
assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution level
to the Act No. 201/2012 Coll. on Clean Air Protection, as amended
1 Eutrophication is the process of enrichment by nitrogen and phosphorus, acidiphication is the decrease in pH/reduction in alkalinity.