Air pollution - State and impacts (Poland)
- Air pollution
Despite gradual improvement of air quality in Poland, several problems remain: excessive tropospheric ozone concentrations in summer, and excessive concentrations of particulate matter in winter. In addition, in some agglomerations excessive concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are observed. Other types of air pollution, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene or heavy metals do not play a major role in air pollution in Poland.
Ozone is the pollutant that has the greatest capacity to be carried over long distances, which is why the ozone concentrations over the territory of Poland are largely the result of the air masses that come into our country from southern and south-western Europe. The results of ozone measurements carried out show excessive concentrations occurring in southern, south-western and central Poland.
The long-term trends for ozone concentrations at regional background stations show that in north and north-eastern Poland, the concentrations of ground-level ozone have a slight downwards trend. The concentrations of ozone in southern and south-western Poland are largely the result of infiltration and in some cases show a slight upward trend (Fig. 1).
Despite the significant decrease in emissions of particulate precursors in Poland, and actions taken to reduce the concentrations of particulate matter in the air, particularly the finest fractions, the excessive concentrations of PM10 remains the main problem facing air quality in Poland. Exceedance occurs both in terms of daily and yearly figures (Fig. 2), and is confined primarily to the centres of cities and agglomerations. The highest PM10 concentrations occur in the cold season. Then, in addition to the increased emissions of particulates from thermal energy plants, including low-emission sources, the conditions for dispersion are far worse, which, in the case of increased emissions from low-lying sources, results in episodes of high PM10 concentrations at atmospheric ground level. In this respect, 2006 was particularly unfavourable. During the cold season of 2006, several anti-cyclone systems occurred, characterised by very low temperatures accompanied by long periods of calm and inversions.
Another factor affecting the level of PM10 pollution is the fact that some Polish cities are situated in mountain or river valleys, which prevents pollutants from dispersing; also the concentration of industries, as for example in the Krakow or Górny Śląsk agglomerations, plays a role.
Particulates, which are a mixture of tiny solid and liquid particles, are capable of entering the respiratory system and causing both lung and cardiovascular problems. An analysis of the percentage of the population exposed to excessive PM10 particulates in Poland show that in 2005 around 5 % of the population were affected in terms of annual exposure limits, while 45 % were affected in terms of daily exposure limits. However, exposure forecasts show that in 2010 this share will be significantly reduced.
In spite of the inexorable increase in car numbers, the standard concentrations for nitrogen dioxide are only sporadically exceeded, and this is mainly in the areas of large agglomerations in unfavourable topographic locations or urban environments where pollutants are likely to accumulate. The agglomeration of Krakow is a case in point (Fig. 3.)
The acidification of soil and water is an important process, particularly in terms of the impact it has on ecosystems. The results of studies of the chemical mechanisms of atmospheric precipitation and the ground deposits of pollutants in Poland over the last ten years show a gradual reduction in the deposits in the ground of some pollutants. This process is particularly marked with regard to sulphate deposits (Fig. 4.). At the same time, a long-term trend of increased pH of atmospheric precipitation has been observed, the result of reduced emissions of pollutants both in Poland and over the continent as a whole.Fig. 4: Deposits of substances introduced via atmospheric precipitations in Poland over 2000-2008 compared with average annual precipitation totals (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)