Air pollution

Air pollution ( air pollution ) is related to the air part of the pollution. According to the Federal Pollution Control Act ( Federal Pollution Control Act ), is air pollution ( there referred to as air pollution ) a change in the natural composition of air, especially through smoke, soot, dust, gases, aerosols, vapors or odors. These substances are also known as air pollutants.

In most industrialized countries, the local air pollution in recent decades has declined sharply. Nevertheless, the directly caused by air pollution damage to human and environment still stands across the EU 23 billion per year. The indirect costs are estimated at about 330 to 940 billion euros per year. Thus, in the EU, the number of deaths (400,000 in 2010). Caused by air pollution higher than that of deaths due to road traffic Worldwide, around seven million deaths a year are according to the WHO due to the effects of air pollution, of which about 3.7 million to smog. In the countries of the third world, in Russia, in the People's Republic of China and other emerging countries, local and regional air pollution is stronger than in the industrialized countries.

  • 4.1 people
  • 4.2 On the environment
  • 4.3 Cultural Heritage

History of Air Pollution

With the targeted use of fire by humans polluting the air with air pollutants began. On peat deposits has been demonstrated that the mining and processing of lead by human cultures for 6000 years has led to increased lead emissions in the air, which affected the world. Only in recent decades, these emissions decreased by the use of unleaded petrol and conditions for the industry. As early as 1800 BC to the smoke of a campfire led together with sand dust to lung injury [ Mendocino County ]. In ancient Rome and later in other European cities in the Middle Ages, documented complaints find about air pollution. In these complaints, it usually went first only to the nuisance caused by odor and dirt. A potential health hazard was not immediately known. The smoke from the ovens of glassmakers in ancient Rome around 150 AD Christ was so disturbing that the glassmakers were forced to move their workshops in the suburbs of Rome.

In England of the 13th century there were many complaints and problems by burning high-sulfur coal. 1257 had to leave because of the smoke Queen Eleanor of England Nottingham. 1272 King Edward I banned the use of sulfur-containing coal on pain of death.

In the city of Cologne in 1464 a copper and lead smelters was prohibited in the city due to neighborhood complaints by Council Decision of continued operation of his craft. In the city of Augsburg, a smelter was demolished in 1623 due to neighborhood complaints about unhealthy smoke and steam and approved the re-commissioning outside the city.

In December 1952, the city of London was hit by a severe smog disaster, which cost up to 12,000 inhabitants life, which is why this event is also called The Great Smog.

Types of air pollution

The problem of air pollution can regard

  • Its causes ( substance-related, as it makes the Federal Pollution Control Act )
  • Its impact ( area basis ) or even
  • Its consequences ( active basis)

Be considered.


Today's standard of living is characterized among other things by a high energy demand, many products from a variety of raw materials industrially produced and a high (some still growing ) volume of traffic. The energy, the production processes (industrial, agricultural livestock ) and transport are the main causes of anthropogenic ( man-made ) air pollution. Important pollutants from the three areas ( the issuer ) and the resulting problems are summarized below.

Today, the road is one of the main sources of air pollution in urban areas represents the motor vehicle exhaust emissions pollute the ambient air primarily with nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC ), soot and other particles. The emissions from motor vehicles were successively reduced by ever stricter emission standards; the number of motor vehicles increased. Extremely strong local air pollution can be found today in many of the world's so-called megacities ( "Mega -City" ), for example in Beijing.

The emissions of the world's shipping traffic are not inconsiderable. Seagoing vessels operate the main motor i.d.R. with low-quality and pollution- rich heavy oil (English Heavy Fuel Oil ( HFO) ), obtained as a residue oil in petroleum processing, and have almost never an exhaust filtering. So were the 2003 estimated emissions for

  • Nitrogen oxides, NOx, 3-7 million tons (calculated as nitrogen, N)
  • Carbon dioxide, CO2, between 120 and 250 million tons (calculated as carbon, C)
  • Hydrocarbons C x H y between 0.3 and 0.8 million tons (calculated as methane, CH4)
  • Particles, PM10 than 0.9 million and 1.6 million tons ( calculated as PM10)

The MARPOL Annex VI # is intended to improve the situation. Since 2008, the emissions due to high fuel costs and therefore often practiced Slow steamings ( conscious driving slowly ) has tended to decline.

Air quality in cities

Mega cities are cities where more than 10 million people live. They are the largest cities in the world. Known megacities are, for example,

  • London (England, about 13 million inhabitants)
  • Los Angeles ( United States, about 18 million inhabitants)
  • Mexico City ( Mexico, about 19 million inhabitants)
  • Tokyo (Japan, about 34 million inhabitants)

The World Health Organization (WHO ) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP ) measure in the context of a global monitoring program, the air quality in megacities. The biggest problem of the mega cities in terms of air pollution particulates and ozone. Mexico City, one of the cities with the world's largest population, also has the most polluting of all megacities on: For the parameters, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and ozone, the values ​​of health protection guidelines of the WHO to more than double were exceeded when measured in 1992.

Nationwide (global ) air pollution

The fact that air pollutants do not stop at national borders, at least since the appearance of strongly acidic rainfall in the Scandinavian countries is known, the main cause were sulfur dioxide emissions in the Central European countries. This slightly water-soluble gas is stable along the moist air currents in clouds several hundreds to a maximum of 1500 km.

Table 2: Transport of oxidized sulfur and from Germany in 1998 (Source: color slides environmental data Germany 2001, Umweltbundesamt Berlin)

According to the Federal Environmental Agency in 1998 in Germany 983 kt of sulfur dioxide were emitted. This amount increases according to Table 2 to about 9 kt sulfur dioxide from neighboring countries ( Comparison of import with export 153.2 kt 144.1 kt).

In the U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions were reduced by 23.5 million tons ( 1980), 21.5 million tons ( 1990), 16.6 million tons ( 2000) to 12 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide in 2010.

China today is causing the world's highest sulfur dioxide emissions. The amount increased from 2000 to 2005 to 25.5 million tons ( 27% ) to; this corresponds to the U.S. level of about 1980 The table also shows that the goal of reducing air pollution not a national but a transnational task is ( su: International action ). .

Dispersion of pollutants

Air pollutants can be detected far from it both in the vicinity of their emergence as a resort. The main factors influencing this spread form wind and stratification state of the Earth's atmosphere. As particularly dangerous here prove to fumigation -layer like in the picture on the right. They occur particularly in Stadtklimaten and in the range of large industrial facilities. Through the accumulation of pollutants, which can lead to a smog, then increased levels of air pollutants are detected. This was in Central Europe, especially London until the seventies the case, but now occurs mainly in East Asian cities such as Beijing or Shanghai. In order to predict the dispersion of air pollutants were therefore developed methods for dispersion modeling.

Principle of air pollutant dilution

It has long been against most exhaust, the " principle of high chimneys ". By emission at altitudes up to 300 m, the exhaust gases should be placed on the higher layers of the atmosphere, in order thus to spread more widely and in lower concentrations. In valleys they even led the smoke channels on a hill and left them there open in a chimney, for example, in the situated on the middle Rhine lead and silver smelter in Braubach.


Air pollution can both directly to humans and the environment ( and possibly again so indirectly to humans) harm. In this case, one and the same air pollutant be harmful in many ways.

In the early 1980s attracted the dying forests of great concern among the population. It has been suggested that air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and acid rain were responsible for this development.

On the human

The pollutants in the air can affect human health (mainly the respiratory and circulatory system diseases) or in the worst case lead to death, depending on the nature of the substance and the prevailing concentration (s ). Because air pollution die according to WHO annually more than 2 million people prematurely from respiratory diseases.

Air pollution causes lung cancer and increases the risk of bladder cancer. In 2010, more than 220,000 lung cancer deaths due to global pollution of the air. On October 17, 2013 Air pollution by WHO was officially classified as a cancer cause.

The increase of the disease or increase of mortality during such episodes smog is now mainly attributed to the increased time to these concentrations of five components:

  • Sulfur dioxide, SO2,
  • Carbon monoxide, CO
  • Nitrogen oxides, NOx,
  • Solids ( particulate matter, suspended solids),
  • Hydrocarbons

However, the effect of these substances on humans can not be considered in isolation, but is also affected by factors such as the temperature or humidity influenced. A distinction is also between acute health effects and longer -term chronic cancers, such as particulate matter.

On the environment

Air pollutants can cause numerous environmental problems:

  • Acidification and eutrophication by emissions of acidifying pollutants and eutrophication (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia)
  • Global warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Deterioration of air quality due to emissions of ozone precursor substances, dust, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and other
  • Amplification of light pollution by emissions of aerosols and dust

On Cultural Heritage

The resulting combined with water due to air pollution acids attack and cultural goods and lead eg to stone corrosion, damage or destroy stained glass when they enter with the rain into the ground, to a large extent archaeological heritage, particularly non- precious metals such as iron.

Measures on air pollution

In Germany there are a number of federal pollution control regulations ( BlmSchV ) based on the Federal Pollution Control Act ( Federal Pollution Control Act ), for example, go back to the European Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC of 21 May 2008.

EU citizens have since 26 May 2011, the opportunity to see exactly who air dirty in their environment: European Commission and the European Environment Agency have published new cards under the European Pollutant Emission Register, the show on a scale of 5x5 km, where emission sources such as road and air traffic for the release, among other things are responsible of particulate matter. Previously, such values ​​were only selectively, for example, available for inspection at various industrial plants.

The Federal Environmental Agency and the Federal countries publish for years actual measured values ​​(for example, particulate matter, ozone ) of about 450 stations in Germany on the internet.

The World Health Organization (WHO ) published in September 2011 a study with data from 1100 cities in 91 countries. However, some of the data used were several years old; the statement " Dresden dust capital of Germany " - based on measured values ​​from 2008 - proved to be untenable.

The UN has determined that the sulfur content must be reduced in heavy oil (See MARPOL # Anlage_VI ).