Air quality in 2022 in Spain shows an improvement compared to the previous year

Jul 16, 2023 | Current affairs, Featured, Revista Lloseta, Thursday Daily Bulletin, Tradition

Only one air quality zone records exceedance of the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide in the Barcelona area. The situation is maintained in which only one air quality zone, in Avilés, exceeds the daily limit value for PM10 particles.

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Air quality

The Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge is today publishing on its website the 2022 Air Quality Assessment Report for Spain in which it presents the results that will be notified to the European Commission before 30 September, detailing the situation of each of the air quality zones with respect to the legislated values. It aims to give an overview of air quality, as well as describe how it is assessed and managed. The report incorporates a climatological summary of the year with data produced by the State Meteorological Agency, including episodes of Saharan dust intrusions.

In general terms, the results are improved in terms of the number of exceedances recorded in the year 2021, since, although there has been one exceedance of the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide and another for the daily limit value for PM10, there has been an improvement in terms of the annual limit value for PM10 and also for the target value for the protection of health and vegetation for ozone.

In this 2022 edition, the chapter on the assessment of the air quality situation with respect to the new World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values has been maintained. These guidelines include new guideline values and intermediate air quality values for the protection of human health. The conclusions of the analysis carried out show that the WHO guideline value for carbon monoxide is not exceeded in any air quality zone, sulphur dioxide is exceeded in only 2 zones covering 0.3% of the surface area of Spain, while annual and daily nitrogen dioxide are exceeded in 84 and 95 zones respectively, covering 51.3% and 72.3% of the surface area of Spain respectively. The annual PM10 value is exceeded in more than 118 zones, representing more than 88 % of the zones, while daily PM10 is exceeded in 116 zones (86 % of the total number of zones), in both cases, representing about 92 % of the area of Spain. For PM2.5 the WHO value is exceeded in 93 % of the Spanish territory (121 zones). All particulate data have been calculated before discounting of Saharan dust intrusions. Ozone guideline values are exceeded in almost all zones.

As in previous editions, there is a specific chapter on the impact of air quality on health, which covers the effects of different pollutants on health. In addition, the report contains a summary of the exceptional air quality situation in 2022 due to Saharan dust supercilious.

Furthermore, a short section on regional background air quality of the EMEP/VAG/CAMP network is included in the report focusing on the analysis of the ozone situation at remote rural background stations.

The 2022 assessment was carried out for the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), lead, benzene, carbon monoxide, ozone, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and benzopyrene.

Main conclusions
With regard to sulphur dioxide, there have been no exceedances of the legislated values, and the good results experienced in previous years have been maintained.

With regard to nitrogen dioxide, the improvement experienced in 2020 is maintained in relation to the hourly limit value, which ceased to be exceeded in the zone ES1301 – Madrid, which was the only zone in which it did so in 2019 and which had been repeatedly exceeded since 2004. As for the annual limit value, there is still only one exceedance out of a total of 130 zones, but this time it corresponds to zone ES0901 – Barcelona Area, which has not breached this limit since 2019. Madrid (ES1301), which had continuously exceeded the annual limit value from 2001 to 2021, ceases to do so in 2022.

In relation to the concentration of particulate matter below 10 microns (PM10), the final situation after discounting the contributions of non-anthropogenic origin is similar to that of 2021, since the exceedance of the daily limit value in the area of Avilés, already recorded in that year, is maintained. That is, it only exceeds 1 zone of the 134 defined for this pollutant.

For particulate matter below 2.5 microns (PM2.5), no exceedance of the limit value has been recorded.

The PM2.5 Mean Exposure Indicator (MEI) is a three-year average that assesses the extent to which the population is exposed to PM2.5 particles. As set out in Royal Decree 102/2011, the national reduction target for Spain, to be met by 2020, is 15 % with respect to the 2011 EMI; the 2011 EMI value was 14.1 µg/m3, and as the 2020 EMI (calculated as the three-year average of the annual indicators for 2018, 2019 and 2020) was 11.3 µg/m3, this represents a reduction of 19.86 % with respect to the baseline 2011 EMI, and achievement of the target by a margin.

The value obtained in 2022 as a result of the average concentration measured at the stations that make up the population-weighted EMI network in the period 2020, 2021 and 2022 was 11.1 µg/m3, compared to 10.9 μg/m3 the previous year, which translates into a reduction compared to the 2011 EMI of 21.28 %, slightly reducing the improvement achieved in 2021, when a reduction of 22.70 % was achieved.

Tropospheric ozone continues to show high levels in 2022, largely due to high insolation and precursor emission levels, but the number of zones exceeding both the target value for health protection (from 18 in 2021 to 10 in 2022, out of 129 zones in both years) and the target value for vegetation protection (from 37 exceedances in 2021 to 33 in 2022, out of 104 and 103 zones, respectively) continues to decrease, following the downward trend of the previous two years. For lead, benzene and carbon monoxide the situation below the limit values is maintained.

The improvement since 2016 is also maintained for arsenic, cadmium and nickel, as in 2022 the exceedances recorded in 2012 and 2014 and 2015 are still not repeated. In the case of benzoapyrene, the improvement since 2016 is maintained, with no repetition of the exceedance recorded in 2013.