Czechs breathe cleanest air in years, suggest a report

Illustrative photo: Engin Akyurt, Pixabay / CC0

According to an annual report issued by the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute, the Czech Republic had the cleanest air in the past eleven years in 2019. Data for this year have also been promising so far. Among the factors that contributed to the positive trend were warm temperatures in winter, rainy and windy weather, but also the coronavirus outbreak.

The annual report by the Czech Hydro-Meteorological institute shows that the concentration of air pollutants last year was the lowest since 2008, with the exception of ozone, benzene and cadmium. Data from 15 measuring stations around the country also suggest that the positive trend continues.

Jáchym Brzezina from the institute’s office in Brno says air quality in the Czech Republic has been improving in the long-term mainly due to the lowering of CO2 emissions – for instance by replacing old solid fuel stoves in homes or transferring to cleaner technologies.
However, the main reason behind the recent improvement of air quality is the weather, he says:

Jáchym Brzezina,  photo: archive of Jáchym Brzezina

“It is mainly due to the fact that heating consumption last winter was much smaller than usual for this time of year. Temperatures in February were five degrees higher than the long-term average.

“There were also two major windstorms and it rained more frequently. This combination of factors contributed to the improvement of air quality.”

Mr Brzezina also points out that if the weather changes this winter, figures for next year could be much less optimistic:

“If we have cold winter this year which requires a lot of heating, combined with inversion and wind blowing air pollutants from across the border, then the figures for next year could worsen again.”

Petra Kolínská from the environmental NGO Zelený kruh says that while the report confirms a positive long-term trend in air quality, there are still striking differences between different regions:

Photo: Hans Braxmeier,  Pixabay / CC0

“It is important to notice the significant regional differences in the quality of air. There are still many places in our country, mainly large agglomerations, such as Ostrava, Karviná, Frýdek-Místek, but also central Moravia, Brno, Prague and Central Bohemia, where the impact on people’s health is still very significant.

She also points out that the quality of air is very hard to asses locally:

“It is important that people check what comes out of their chimney and from their neighbour’s chimney. Because despite the overall positive figures, they could still live in a very toxic environment.

“People who live in big cities should also make sure where the measuring stations are located. For instance in Prague, they are often in places where the traffic has improved and they should be moved to areas where traffic has increased.”

According to an international study published by the magazine Cardiovascular Research, exposure to air pollution increases COVID-19 deaths by an average 15% worldwide on average.
In the Czech Republic, estimates show that air pollution contributed to 29% of coronavirus deaths, which is the highest figure among the countries included in the survey.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Jana Karasová
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