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Long-term Development of Air Quality 2021

Summary

How clean is the air in Berlin? And what was it like 45 years ago? Find answers here! Since 1975, air quality has been documented and analysed consistently as part of the Berlin Clean Air Measurement Network (BLUME) as well as with additional measurements.

The BLUME measurement network (as of December 2021) consists of automatic stations that operate at various fixed locations representative of the three different pollution categories (periphery, urban background, traffic). A “measurement bus” was operated at different locations in addition until late 2020. Every five minutes, each station transmits pollutant levels to the Control Centre in Brückenstraße (borough of Mitte). These form the basis for further calculations and analyses. Since the mid-1990s, the automatic measuring network has been supplemented by small sampling devices attached to streetlamps (soot and benzene immission collectors = RUBIS) as well as passive samplers.

The results are encouraging: Berlin has managed to reduce emissions significantly since 1989. Nitrogen oxides, for example, have dropped by 73 percent, sulphur oxide even by 96 percent. This is partly due to the energy-saving rehabilitation of old buildings, which has been subsidised by the State of Berlin since 1990. Particulate pollution or fine dust has also decreased: emissions from vehicle exhausts dropped by more than 90 percent between 1989 and 2015. Another key factor in lowering particulate pollution was the decrease in emissions from long-distance transport and the introduction of the environmental zone.

Since 2020, all air pollutant limits that are in effect to protect human health have been complied with. The targets proposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, continue to be exceeded, in some cases considerably. Certain EU-wide ozone characteristic values, which cannot really be influenced locally, are also not being met. With the new 2030 Clean Air Strategy, the State of Berlin has undertaken the commitment to achieve more ambitious targets in line with the WHO recommendations. Close monitoring therefore remains extremely important.

Take a look at our overview of how Berlin’s air quality has developed over the past 45 years – illustrated by maps and tables.