At the present time, ambient air pollution is one of the most serious problems in protection of the environment. Polluted air has a demonstrable detrimental impact on human health and pollutants can cause a wide range of health problems from less serious to serious sicknesses and premature death. Pollutants negatively affect vegetation, can influence its growth and result in decreased yields of agricultural crops and forests. In addition, they lead to eutrophication and acidification of soils and aquatic ecosystems1 and subsequently to changes in species diversity and a reduction in the number of plant and animal species. Many pollutants accumulate in the environment, with a detrimental impact on ecosystems, and enter into the food chain. In addition, some of them directly or indirectly affect the climate system of the Earth. The damage caused by atmospheric pollutants to materials and buildings, which are frequently historically important, must also be mentioned.
A number of measures have been introduced in the past quarter-century both at important sources and in household heating systems and transport, which have led to a substantial decrease in pollutant emissions in the Czech Republic. Nonetheless, a number of economic and social activities continue to produce amounts of emissions that, in combination with meteorological and dispersion conditions, lead to exceeding of the pollution limit levels for some substances, especially in some regions. At the present time, of the monitored pollutants, the greatest problems are caused by suspended particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons bound to them. In the summer, the pollution limit levels for tropospheric ozone are exceeded at a number of locations.
It holds in general that local household heating by solid fuels is a significant source of suspended particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (in both the EU and the Czech Republic). Elevated nitrogen oxide concentrations may occur in areas with high traffic levels. Transport is also another important source of suspended particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Public and industrial energy production, agriculture and solvents producing non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOC) emissions remain important pollutant sources. However, the specific contributions of the individual sources to air pollution differ in the various regions depending on the composition of sources at the given location and also on transfer of pollutants from other areas.
I.1 OBJECTIVES OF THE PUBLICATION
The "Air Pollution in the Czech Republic in 2016" yearbook, together with the electronically published “Summary Table Survey" data yearbook provide a comprehensive annual overview of information on the ambient air quality in the territory of the Czech Republic for the relevant year. The evaluation of air quality is based on the measured data, collected in the Air Quality Information System (AQIS) of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI) using additional data sources and mathematical tools. The data yearbook presents verified measured pollution data and information on the chemical composition of atmospheric precipitation from the individual locations, including aggregated data, while the graphic yearbook provides a commented summary of information in understandable maps, graphs and tables.
The introduction to this publication outlines the political and legislative framework of ambient air quality protection in the Czech Republic, characterization of the main air pollutants from the perspective of their possible impacts on human health and the environment, and phenomena that are fundamental for determining pollutant levels in the atmosphere, i.e. sources of pollution and meteorological and dispersion conditions in the given year. The main part of the publication is devoted to air quality and the occurrence of smog situations in the Czech Republic. Chapters dealing with the equally important subjects of atmospheric deposition and greenhouse gas emissions are included at the end of the publication. Information on the database, methodology and mapping uncertainty are outlined in the last two chapters.
The air quality is evaluated strictly in accordance with the valid national legislation (Act No. 201/2012 Coll. on air protection, as amended, and Decree No. 330/2012 Coll. on the method of assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution levels and on the extent of informing the public about levels of ambient air pollution and during smog situations) and in accordance with the requirements of the European Union. The amendment to the Act on protection of the air of 19 October 2016 came into effect on 1 January 2017. This amendment was promulgated as Act No. 369/2016 Coll., amending Act No. 201/2012 Coll, on protection of the air, as amended, and Act No. 634/2004 Coll., on administrative fees, as amended. This Act enters into effect on 1 January 2017, except for Article 1, par. 80 and 91, which enter into effect on 1 January 2020. This amendment to the Act is related to evaluation of air quality beginning in 2017. The evaluation is implement in relation to protection of the health of the population and protection of ecosystems and vegetation. Map interpretation is an essential starting point for indication of areas where the pollutant limit levels are exceeded from the viewpoint of protection of human health, for which the legislation requires preparation of programmes to improve the ambient air quality or regulatory codes.
Ambient air quality yearbooks are intended primarily for authorities and organisations dealing with and managing issues related to the environment and air protection in the Czech Republic and are regularly provided to the State administrative authorities, to all the contributors to the AQIS database and to other selected entities. The yearbooks are available to the public on the CHMI website at www.chmi.cz.
I.2 POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK OF AMBIENT AIR QUALITY
The level of air pollution is objectively ascertained by monitoring the concentrations of ambient air pollutants in the ambient air in the tropospheric layer of the atmosphere by a network of measuring stations (Fig. I.1; for details, see Chap. XI). Pollution limit levels have been established for pollutants, which are monitored and evaluated in relation to their demonstrated harmful effects on human health and ecosystems. Air quality evaluation is mainly based on comparison of the determined concentration levels with the relevant pollutant limit levels (Tabs. I.1 and I.2) pand potentially also with the permissible frequency of exceeding these limits, which correspond to concentration levels that should not be exceeded according to the valid legislation.
The Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (hereinafter the Strategy) is the basic strategic document in the EU in the area of assessing and controlling ambient air quality. The objective of the Strategy, in accordance with the 6th Environment Action Programme, is to achieve "a level of ambient air quality which does not give rise to risks for human health and the environment and does not have markedly negative impacts on them". On the basis of the Strategy of 2005, the European Commission carried out a comprehensive review of current EU policy in the area of air protection. This resulted in the adoption of a package of measures (Clean Air Policy Package) in December of 2013. The package contains, for example, the "Clean Air for Europe" programme document, outlining new objectives in ambient air quality for the period up to 2030, a draft for revision of the Directive on national emission ceilings with stricter national emissions ceilings for six major pollutants and the draft of a new Directive on the reduction of pollution caused by medium-sized combustion sources (EC 2013a).
Within the framework of the EU, the main tools for ambient air quality protection and improvement are 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, Directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants and European Parliament and Council Directive No. 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control). Newly, EU Commission Decree 2015/1480 of 28 August 2015 amends several annexes to European Parliament and Council Directives 2004/107/ES and 2008/50/ES, which set the rules for reference methods, data verification and location of sampling sites for assessing ambient air quality.
Based on the requirement of the European Commission to prepare a coherent approach to air quality control in the Czech Republic, a Medium-Term Strategy (up to 2020) for improving air quality in the Czech Republic has been prepared. This conceptual document was approved in December of 2015 and summarizes all the outputs of the National Emission Reduction Programme of the Czech Republic and ten programmes for improving air quality elaborated for designated zones and agglomerations. Among other things, it acts as a basic document for financing measures for decreasing emissions and improving air quality from EU funds via operational programmes (MŽP 2015).
The national legislation on air quality evaluation in the Czech Republic is based on the European legislation. Act No. 201/2012 Coll. on air protection, as amended hereinafter the "Air Protection Act" defines, among other things, the zones and agglomerations for ambient air quality evaluation. Details are specified in Decree No. 330/2012 Coll., on the method of assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution levels and on the extent of informing the public on the level of ambient air pollution and during smog situations.
Zones and agglomerations are primarily understood to be the basic units for air quality management. The Air Protection Act defines three agglomerations – the Capital City of Prague, the city of Brno and the agglomeration of Ostrava/Karviná/ Frýdek-Místek – and seven zones (Fig. I.2).
This yearbook presents air quality evaluation in 2016 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 areas where the limit values for the protection of health and the protection of ecosystems and vegetation are exceeded. Where a limit value is exceeded in a zone or agglomeration or if the limit value is exceeded in a zone or agglomeration more times than the set maximum number of exceedances, the Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the relevant regional or local authority, is obliged to develop a programme aimed improving air quality in the given zone or agglomeration, which it must prepare within 18 months of the end of the calendar year in which the limit value was exceeded. During the preparation of each programme to improve air quality, MoE adopts measures to ensure that the pollution limit level is attained as soon as possible.
The pollution limit levels are based on the recommended (guideline) values set by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on a number of epidemiological studies (Table I.3). In the interests of protecting public health, WHO recommends maintaining pollutant concentrations at levels that are even lower than those at which negative effects on human health have been documented. Nonetheless, these values stem from conclusions regarding the impacts on health from ambient air pollution and do not take into account the aspects of technical and economic feasibility and further political and social factors. Consequently, the pollution limit levels set by the legislation may be higher, but the process heading towards meeting the WHO guideline values must be generally supported (WHO 2013).
I.3 AMBIENT AIR POLLUTANTS AND THEIR EFFECTS
Ambient air pollution is among the factors that participate in determining human health. Air pollution can be manifested in the occurrence or worsening of subjective symptoms or objective health disorders, which could be caused to a certain degree by exposure to substances contained in the ambient air, especially through the respiratory tract (SZÚ 2017).
The health effects of air pollution may include moderate temporary changes in the respiratory tract and impaired pulmonary function, reduced performance, the need to seek first aid, hospitalization or even death. There is an increasing amount of evidence that air pollution can have adverse effects, not only the respiratory system, but also the cardiovascular system. Some pollutants have carcinogenic effects, influence the functioning of the endocrine glands or affect foetal development and growth (SZÚ 2016).
As mentioned above ambient air pollutants also adversely affect vegetation and ecosystems and a great many of them can accumulate in the environment or cause damage to materials and buildings.
Fig. I.1 Major station networks of ambient air quality monitoring, 2016
Fig. I.2 The zones and agglomerations for ambient air quality assessment and evaluation of ambient air pollution level according to the Act No. 201/2012 Coll. on Clean Air Protection, as amended
1 Eutrophication is the process whereby the environment is enriched by nitrogen and phosphorus. Acidification is the decrease in pH.