Why are pollutants very dangerous

That is why air pollution is so dangerous

The evaluation and assessment of the air quality takes place with regard to the limit values ​​defined in an EU directive. The results are also compared with the much stricter recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are the causes of air pollution?

Road traffic and industry in particular pollute our air. Nitrogen dioxide is mainly produced during combustion processes in diesel engines and furnace systems and is released into the air via the exhaust pipe or chimney. "The main problem is diesel cars on the road", says Ute Dauert, air expert at the Federal Environment Agency. Diesel exhausts are responsible for 67 percent of direct nitrogen dioxide emissions from road traffic in city centers.

In the case of fine dust, the sources are diverse. It is released in industry and road traffic as well as in agriculture. The level of pollution is also influenced by the weather. If it is cold, emissions usually increase because the heating is more intense.

When does it get dangerous?

The annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide is 40 micrograms per cubic meter. "We are clearly above that in many places"says air expert Dauert. "In cities like Munich or Stuttgart we are sometimes at a value of over 80 micrograms." The one-hour limit value for nitrogen dioxide is set at 200 micrograms per cubic meter and must not be exceeded more than 18 times in a calendar year.

According to the UBA, pollution from fine dust is declining, but the WHO recommendations are still not being met. Fine dust is differentiated according to its diameter. There is the fine dust fraction PM10 with a maximum diameter of 10 micrometers. Here the permissible annual average is 40 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

The daily limit is 50 micrograms per cubic meter and must not be exceeded more than 35 times a year. The ultra-fine particulate matter PM2.5 has a diameter of 0.1 micrometers. The limit here is 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

What are the consequences of air pollution?

Health can be affected in different ways. Nitrogen dioxide damage plants and can be particularly dangerous for asthmatics due to their irritating effect. They act on the mucous membranes and the respiratory organs. "This can aggravate allergies", explains Ute Dauert from the Federal Environment Agency.

Fine dust can also irritate the mucous membranes and cause inflammation in the trachea and bronchi. An increase in cardiovascular diseases has already been noted due to air pollutants.

How can you protect yourself from air pollution?

Basically, you cannot protect yourself: "When you are outside you are naturally exposed to these air pollutants"says air expert Dauert. "Then the polluted air is inevitably inhaled." However, everyone can adapt their own behavior and thus prevent the release of pollutants. "You can just leave your car behind for short distances and ride your bike or walk", so the expert.

Politicians must then create the major framework conditions in order to reduce air pollutants in the cities. According to the UBA, this includes that old diesel vehicles must be gradually banned from inner cities. On the other hand, clean vehicles such as electric cars should be promoted.