According to the data of the state environmental air monitoring, in 2023 pollutant concentrations in many air quality research (AQR) stations were lower than in previous years. Compared to 2022, the ambient air quality in our country was better, although the recommended stricter standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) are still often not met.
In Lithuania, monitoring of air polluting substances is carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency. There are currently 17 stationary automatic air quality testing stations (AQT) throughout Lithuania: 4 operate in Vilnius, 2 each in Kaunas and Klaipėda, 1 each in Šiauliai, Panevėžys, as well as in rural areas – Žemaitija, Dzūkija and Aukštaitija regions. One such station was also installed in such cities where there are industrial objects with a high risk of air pollution – Kėdainiai, Mažeikiai, Nauja Akmenė and Jonava.
The main monitored air pollutants are: solid particles (KD10, KD2.5), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO).
The average annual concentration of solid particles (KD10) in OKT stations in 2023 did not exceed the limit value. Compared to 2022, this rate was lower or unchanged at all study sites. The largest number of exceedances of the daily limit value of particulate matter KD10 is recorded in October-December. and January-March, i.e. during the heating season, when combustion products are released into the ambient air during the production of heat energy.
The average annual concentration of solid particles KD2.5 also did not exceed the established norm. At many air quality monitoring stations, concentrations of fine particulate matter were lower than in 2022.
The average annual and maximum 1-hour concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in urban OKT stations also did not exceed the set limit value.
in 2023 the maximum 8-hour ozone (O3) concentration at many OKT stations exceeded the value corresponding to the long-term goals, but the target value was not exceeded.
The average annual concentration of benzo(a)pyrene did not exceed the target value at any of the study sites. The highest concentrations of this dangerous carcinogen are found in the cold season, which enters the ambient air mainly when heating individual residential houses with solid fuel (coal, peat, wood, briquettes, etc.), using outdated or technically improper heating devices, as well as not cleaning them in time and properly chimneys.
Average annual concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene and heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel) did not exceed the established limit or target values. Compared to 2022, ambient air concentrations of these pollutants have decreased in many air quality study sites.
Some indicators did not meet the more stringent WHO recommended standards
According to long-term research data, ambient air quality in Lithuania is gradually improving and rarely exceeds the applicable norms. However, the more stringent standards recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) are still often not met by pollutant concentrations in ambient air.
WHO’s recommended annual norm for PM10 concentration was not exceeded at Vilniaus Savanorių pr., Naujosios Akmenės, Mažeikių, Jonavas, Kėdainiai and Žemaitija OKT stations. The average annual concentration of solid particles PM2.5 was lower in Vilniaus Lazdynai, Naujosios Akmenė and rural background stations of Aukštaitija, while in other research locations it was higher than recommended by WHO.
The average annual concentration of nitrogen dioxide in WHO guidelines exceeded the recommended norm in many research locations, except for Mažeikiai, Jonava, Kėdainiai, Kaunas Noreikiškii and rural background Dzūkija and Žemaitija OKT stations. Ozone peak at 8 am. concentration met the WHO standard only at Vilnius Žirmūnai OKT station. The maximum daily concentration of sulfur dioxide and the average annual concentration of carbon monoxide in all study sites met the WHO recommended good air quality standards.
The main sources of environmental air pollution are transport, thermal energy production and industrial activity, although people’s consumption and lifestyle habits also influence it.