Poor air quality in Croatia recently came into the public spotlight when Zagreb was ranked one of the world’s ten cities with the highest air pollution last month.
The news led to many questioning the source and accuracy of the news so the team from the Croatian TV show Zdrav život (Healthy Life) decided to check what the quality of air is actually like in Croatia, how air pollution is measured, what consequences it can have on health and is it just the result of weather conditions.
In addition to natural air pollutants, such as volcanic eruptions or desert sand, public interest is particularly focused on those sources of pollution that arise as a result of human activities – industry, energy production, transport and agriculture.
“Floating particles PM 10 and PM 2.5 have been monitored for the last fifteen years, ie those with a dynamic diameter of less than 10 and 2.5 micrometers. It has been proven to be most associated with adverse health effects. Smaller particles, 2.5 and less – can reach the lower respiratory tract. They can have various harmful ingredients attached to them – toxic metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are carcinogenic. We also have gaseous pollutants – for example nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide,” says Dr. sc. Gordana Pehnec from the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Medicine, HRT writes.
Metal levels – air in the whole of Croatia is first-class quality
At the Institute for Medical Research, air quality is monitored and analysed on a daily basis, says Dr. sc. Silvije Davila. He explains how a filter in the analyser measures a 24-hour sample which then goes for chemical analysis.
In addition to gravimetric measurement of suspended particles, their composition is also determined, adds Dr. sc. Jasmina Rinkovec. Among them are metals – nickel, arsenic, cadmium and lead. However, he adds – in the whole of Croatia the levels are so low that the air is actually the first category.
In recent years, sensors have also been used to determine air quality as part of European projects. Zagreb is one of a network of European cities participating in this four-year project.
“I must mention that the air quality sensors that have started to appear in the markets and that are used exclusively for scientific research. They are a good indicator for some situations, but they are not for further quality assessments, because they have their physical limitations, they have quite large deviations,” notes Davila.
Air quality better than a few decades ago
Experts point out that air quality today, despite strong industrial development, is better than it was a few decades ago when not so much attention was paid to this problem. Therefore, educating the youngest is a guarantee that this trend will continue in the future.
“In the past few years, the popularisation of science has gained momentum throughout Croatia, including here at the Institute. We are also trying to pass on to children and young people knowledge about quality, air pollution and how they can affect or not affect pollution. Kindergarten children are among our favourites, because they really have a lot of questions that we sometimes get confused and don’t know exactly what to answer. But in fact, we also grow with them and in that way educate the public for our future,” says Rinkovec.
Although we have witnessed certain articles in recent weeks about the questionable air quality in the capital Zagreb, experts reassure the public and claim that the air we breathe is of satisfactory quality, and certain seasonal deviations are completely expected and common. Therefore, there is no room for panic or the need for expensive purifiers or filters.
It should be noted that air quality is assessed on an annual basis and not on the basis of current pollution, HRT said.