Bulgaria scored poorly in the annual Air Quality in Europe report published by the European Environment Agency on September 24, which found that despite progress made in reducing air pollutants in Europe, some parts of the continent still had “persistent problems with outdoor concentrations of particulate matter and ground level ozone”.
Particulate matter (PM) and ozone (O3) were the most problematic pollutants in terms of harm to human health, according to the report, which is based on 2010 data.
“Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe declined in the period 2001–2010, resulting, for some of the pollutants, in improved air quality across the region. These results notwithstanding, many European countries still do not comply with one or more emission ceilings set under EU and United Nations agreements,” the report said.
The EEA report named Bulgaria as the country with the highest reported daily limit value of PM10, particulate matter in the one-hundredth of a millimetre size range, one of eight countries to exceed the limit value set by EU regulations (50 micrograms a cubic metre).
On PM2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 microns in size), Bulgaria ranked third-worst, behind only Poland and the Czech Republic, but under the 25 micrograms a cubic metre limit set by EU regulations. However, the three year running mean for the period 2008-2010 in urban areas still placed Bulgaria in last place on the PM2.5 scale.
Particulate matter can cause or aggravate cardiovascular and lung diseases, heart attacks and arrhythmias, affect the central nervous system, the reproductive system and cause cancer. The outcome can be premature death.
On nitrogen oxides, Bulgaria scored in the middle of the EU pack, within EU regulatory limits, but on sulphur dioxide, emissions above the hourly and daily limit values have been recorded at urban stations in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria also scored the highest average daily value of sulphur dioxide among 27 EU member states, albeit well below the average mandated by EU regulations.
On carbon monoxide, Bulgaria again scored worst in the EU, although under the mandated eight-hourly limit set in EU regulations. Measurements also recorded above-limit concentrations of cadmium and lead in the air, as well as a higher-than-mandated annual figure for benzo(a)pyrene.
(Smog over Sofia, photo by dewfall/flickr.com)