High levels of particulate matter in the winter months
Increased fine dust concentrations are a risk that should not be underestimated for health. In the winter months, particulate matter pollution often rises significantly due to the special weather conditions, as confirmed by the head of the Air Pollution Control Department at the Hessian State Office for the Environment and Geology, Stefan Jacobi, in a recent interview with the "Hessischer Rundfunk" (hr).
In Hesse, the permissible limit value has been clearly exceeded at many particulate matter measuring stations over the past few days, reports “hr-Online”, referring to the statement by Stefan Jacobi. According to the head of the Air Pollution Control Department at the Hessian State Office for Environment and Geology, "only four of the 33 air measurement stations in Hesse on Wednesday were below the prescribed daily value" of a maximum of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. At some measuring points, an extremely drastic exceedance of this upper limit was found. For example, the fine dust pollution in Reinheim reached a value of 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air and Fulda also reached a value of more than 130 micrograms.
Increased risk of respiratory diseases due to fine dust Particulate matter is one of the main risk factors for respiratory diseases. According to the current state of research, both morbidity and mortality from respiratory diseases increase with high fine dust concentrations. Mortality from cardiovascular diseases also increases with high levels of particulate matter. However, the effects of particulate matter strongly depend on the particle size and the toxicity of the pollutants it contains. In order to minimize the health risks for the population as far as possible, the EU already set in 2005 that the daily limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air may be exceeded on a maximum of 35 days a year. Although this time limit for exceeding the limit value is observed in most regions of Germany, exceeding the daily upper limit is not uncommon in the winter months. The increased particulate matter pollution found in Hesse was “not unusual for this time of the year,” explained Stefan Jacobi.
Winter weather as the cause of the increased fine dust concentration According to the expert, the fine dust concentration increases in winter mainly due to the special weather conditions. The wind speeds are currently particularly low, which limits horizontal air exchange. The cool temperatures would also have led to a so-called “inversion weather situation”, in which warm air lies like a lid on the cold air and thus prevents vertical air exchange. "The transport of pollutants is restricted both vertically and horizontally and there is a higher burden," said the weather expert of the "Hessischer Rundfunk", Tim Staeger, the consequences of the phenomenon. As a result, the permissible limit values in Fulda, for example, had already been exceeded on five days in mid-January. However, the experts did not rate these exceedances as particularly critical. It is still “in the frame”, emphasized Jacobi.
Decreasing particulate matter trend, according to the Hessian State Office for the Environment and Geology, the 35-day limit set by the EU was not exceeded at any of the measuring stations in 2012, which Jacobi described as a certain success. However, the measured particulate matter levels were still too close to the limit value and natural weather conditions could quickly lead to the daily limit being exceeded, the expert continued. However, the trend towards decreasing the concentration of particulate matter observed by the State Office for the Environment and Geology since 2005 is encouraging. This is at least partly due to a slight reduction in traffic, more environmentally friendly cars and the associated lower particulate emissions. However, according to the experts, the weather conditions also play a significant role. (fp)
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