The air quality in Germany is getting better. The Federal Environment Agency came to this conclusion after a preliminary evaluation of 600 measuring stations in Germany. The limit values for particulate matter were not exceeded in any German city in 2021, and those for nitrogen dioxide only in a few places, said the President of the Federal Office, Dirk Messner. "That's gratifying and shows that a lot can be achieved with suitable and consistently implemented air pollution control measures," said Messner. The measuring points at which the nitrogen dioxide limit was exceeded are in Munich and Ludwigsburg.
However, the limit values for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide were set more than 20 years ago. New scientific findings on how air pollution affects health are not taken into account. The World Health Organization (WHO) updated and significantly tightened its guidelines last year. According to Messner, these new, stricter values are still being exceeded in almost every German city. "We haven't worked on these limit values for 20 years – the message is: we should do it," said Messner. The EU Commission is currently revising the applicable air quality directive, the values of which are to be aligned with those of the WHO.
For 2019, the European Environment Agency estimated that 53,800 people died prematurely in Germany due to permanent exposure to particulate matter. Even if the particulate matter pollution in many urban areas is as low today as it was in the country ten years ago, Messner has suggestions on how it could be further reduced: Heating with wood should be avoided. "From an air quality perspective, we're doing a lot of damage here," Messner said. Burning wood drives the fine dust pollution more than cars.
"For really healthy air, the pollutant load must be reduced permanently and throughout Germany," said Messner. With the measures taken to date to keep the air clean, no further improvements can be expected.