Sustainable development in Germany - 17 Goals to Transform our World

Air pollution – Keeping the environment healthy

Indicator 3.2.b: Share of the population with excessive exposure to PM10

SDG-11.6.2
(Evaluation of the year 2018 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)

Selection

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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The indicator shows the number of persons who are exposed at their place of residence to an annual average or more than 20 micrograms (µg) of PM10 particulate matter (dust particles with a diameter not exceeding 10 micrometres (µm)) per cubic metre (m³) of air.

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

Long-term exposure of humans to particulate matter is especially liable to lead to health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular disorders as well as increasing the risk of type-2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. Accordingly, to achieve better health protection, the aim is to ensure by 2030 that no one in Germany is exposed at their place of residence to a concentration of particles (PM10) exceeding 20 μg per cubic metre (m³) of air, averaged over one year. The guideline value of 20 µg/m³ corresponds to the level recommended by the World Health Organization and is far more stringent than the 40 µg annual mean ceiling that applies in the EU.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

Last modification of code (data) 2020-08-06: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window
Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

Direct sources of particulate matter are the industrial generation of energy and heat, agriculture, road traffic and heating, particularly with solid fuels and more especially with wood in household fireplaces or stoves. Particulate matter, however, can also occur through the formation of secondary particles as a result of chemical reactions with precursors such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and organic carbon.

The particulate matter (PM10) contained in the air is measured at a total of more than 370 air monitoring sites in both metropolitan and rural areas of Germany. For methodological reasons, the indicator is based only on the readings from the monitoring sites that are not exposed to direct particulate emissions from traffic or to any other significant local sources, because these measure only high localised concentrations (hot spots) and not area-wide particulate air pollution. From a combination of model results with the measured monitoring data on background concentrations, the particulate concentrations for the whole area of Germany are obtained. These concentrations are combined with information on population distribution to determine the number of persons who are exposed to annual mean particulate pollution of more than 20 micrograms per cubic metre of air at their place of residence. Since the model includes only those monitoring sites which are not exposed to direct particulate emissions from local sources, it may be assumed that the indicator underestimates the actual number of persons whose exposure to particulate matter exceeds the guideline value of the World Health Organization.

Rather than reflecting nationwide adherence to the guideline value, the indicator therefore depicts the level of adherence for the population who live in places remote from sources of high particulate emissions. It says nothing about the exposure level of the population as a whole or about variations in the course of the year. This indicator, moreover, does not take separate account of emissions of finer particulates (PM2.5 and PM0.1).

Exposure to PM10 fell considerably from 2007 to 2018. The average exposure, weighted by population, was around 18.9 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2007, it was down to about 15.4 µg/m³ by 2018. Over the same period there was also a sharp fall in the number of people who were exposed at their place of residence to annual mean concentrations of more than 20 µg of PM10 per m³. In 2007, there were 29.7 million such persons, but in 2018 there were only about 2.9 million.

Weather also influences the measurements of airborne particulate matter. Part of the reason for the sharp drop in 2011 and subsequent years is presumably that there were relatively few instances of temperature inversion in the winter months, although that curve has flattened out since 2015. Depending on wind speed, direction and air temperature, particulate matter may be transported into other regions and countries or else, during inversions, may become more concentrated at its place of origin.

If the average trend of recent years continues, the target of ensuring that the population nationwide is exposed to an annual mean concentration of less that 20 µg of airborne PM10 per cubic metre is likely to be achieved.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)

Indicator

3.2.b Share of the population with excessive exposure to PM10

Target

WHO particulate matter guideline value of 20 micrograms/cubic metre for PM10 to be adhered to as widely as possible by 2030

Year

2015

2016

2017

2018

Evaluation Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich

Source 1

 German Environment Agency

Organisation

German Environment Agency

Source 2

 World Health Organization

Organisation

World Health Organization