How do we monitor air quality?
The assessment of the quality of the atmospheric environment is based on the use of proper equipment and instruments (monitoring stations) as well as on scientific computations. The only way by which we can accurately estimate the temporal variation of air pollution is by continuously monitoring the air pollution levels, which means that we need to continuously monitor the air pollutant content of the atmosphere. This content is known as concentration, and provides with the fraction of the air pollutant mass per cubic meter of air. The measurement units applied are micrograms or milligrams per cubic meter of air (μg/m3 and mg/m3 respectively), as dictated in the relevant legislation. An alternative way of expressing air pollution levels is by using mixing ratios, i.e. by providing their values with the aid of an analogy, usually parts of air pollutants per million parts of air (ppm), or parts of air pollutants per billion parts of air (ppb).
There are many types of air quality monitoring equipment. For this reason, the European Union legislation as well as Cyprus laws define the technical characteristics of such equipment, as well as the monitoring procedures that need to be followed. It is important that both equipment and monitoring procedures should follow international technical standards (like EN 17025) in order for the measurements to be considered as scientifically valid and comparable with other measurements at an international level. Thus there is a need for acquiring, using and maintaining high technology equipment, as well as having the personnel with the necessary scientific and technical background, so that air quality monitoring runs on a 24-h basis and data acquired follow the quality standards dictated by the relevant guidelines.
The authority being responsible for monitoring the quality of the atmospheric environment in Cyprus is the Department of Labour Inspection and more specifically the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section. The first air quality measurements in the country were conducted in 1993 with a station that was installed in Nicosia. At the end of 2006, the air quality monitoring network comprised of nine stations in total, while more stations were added in 2010. Currently (2020) there is a network of nine stations in total, which continuously monitor air pollution levels with the aid of fully automated monitoring equipment. Each one of these stations is actually a scientific laboratory, within which all specialized air quality monitoring equipment operate under conditions of stable atmosphere. A communication system allows for the continuous connection of each station with the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section headquarters, and provides with the hourly data being available via the current web site.
It should be mentioned that apart from automated, real-time monitoring equipment, another, not automated method, called gravimetric, is being applied for monitoring the levels of particulates (PM10 and PM2.5). The gravimetric method is the reference method for assessing PM concentration levels in the atmosphere, and requires the analysis of special filters in a scientific laboratory, a task that has been undertaken by the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section. Such a method is applied in the case of the Paphos residential monitoring station (Alexandroupoleos and Kopaidos crossroad), where a special instrument is installed for collecting data on PM2.5 concentration levels.
In addition to the air quality monitoring network, the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section operates the national Air Quality Reference Laboratory[*], for supporting its activities. It is worth to mention that this is one of the European Laboratories that have received accreditation (in June 2013), according to the related European and Cyprus legal framework.
[*] All National Air Quality Reference Laboratories for European Union member states have developed a collaboration network called AQUILA, which is coordinated by the Joined Research Centre/Institute for Environment and Sustainability. The Cyprus reference lab belongs to the AQUILA network and has been accredited according to the standard CYS EN ISO/IEC 17025 (accreditation certificate) that dictates the general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
Where are the measuring stations located?
- Strovolos police station, Nicosia
- Elementary School of Apostolos Loucas, Nicosia
- Archbishop Makarios III Avenue and Tsirou Street, Limassol
- Municipal Park (opposite American Academy), Larnaca
- Apostolou Pavlou kai Michael Kyprianou, Pafos
- Municipality, Zygi
- Forest Station, Ayia Marina Xyliatou
- Mari, Larnaca
- 1st Apriliou Avenue, Paralimni
More details concerning the type and the location of the air quality monitoring stations are available at the media center web pages.
Which are the main air pollutants and what are their pollution level categories?
The main pollutants are nitric dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon oxide (CO), ozone (O3), benzene (C6H6), particulate matter 10 μm (PM10) and particulate matter 2.5 μm (PM2.5). The categories that are used to describe their pollution levels are:
Pollution Level (μg/m³)
|Pollutant||Low (1)||Moderate (2)||High (3)||Very High (4)|
|PM10||0 - 50||50 - 100||100 - 200||> 200|
|PM2.5||0 - 25||25 - 50||50 - 100||> 100|
|O3||0 - 100||100 - 140||140 - 180||> 180|
|NO2||0 - 100||100 - 150||150 - 200||> 200|
|SO2||0 - 150||150 - 250||250 - 350||> 350|
|CO||0 - 7000||7000 - 15000||15000 - 20000||> 20000|
|C6H6||0 - 5||5 - 10||10 - 15||> 15|
Which are the air pollution levels used in our web site?
Air pollution levels are defined with the aid of concentration levels per pollutant, which are associated with health problems, as summarized below:
|Air Pollution Level||Health Impacts [*]|
|Low(1)||Negligible to low health effects, low health risk; negligible percentage of symptoms appear even for the sensitive parts of the population [**].|
|Medium(2)||Moderate health risk: There is a chance of mild health effects and related symptoms for sensitive parts of the population [**] and especially for those having respiratory problems (asthma etc). Such persons should consider to reduce strenuous physical activities, especially outdoors.|
|High(3)||Health risk may occur: Sensitive parts of the population may demonstrate adverse health effects and related symptoms [**]. Those having respiratory problems (asthma, etc) as well as those suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases should avoid outdoors/physical activity and should stay away from high air pollution as well as high air temperature areas. Such persons may possibly be in need for medical advice or even help especially if they demonstrate symptoms. People with asthma may need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.|
|Very High(4)||High health risk for sensitive parts of the population [**]: Those suffering from respiratory problems (asthma, allergies etc) as well as those suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory diseases should move away from high air pollution as well as high air temperature areas, and should avoid any activity that may worsen their condition. Older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. Such persons are very likely to be in need for medical help and advice. Some healthy individuals may demonstrate irritation and discomfort symptoms.|
[*] Health impacts listed in this table are of general nature and refer to the overall population. The content of this web site does not replace any medical advice, which should be taken into account by all those likely to develop any type of symptom. For those individuals that are in a health status which may worsen or may even become health threatening, it is necessary to seek medical advice and guidelines in advance of any air pollution event, and to be in direct contact with their medical doctor.
[**] The term sensitive parts of the population usually refers to the elderly, children, and patients (cardiovascular and respiratory problems). Individuals belonging to this group should follow the advice of their medical doctor concerning their everyday activities. As there is always a possibility of symptom development for very sensitive individuals, proper precaution measures should be taken even under low air pollution levels.
Note : Health risk attributed to air pollution, for those without any related health problem, is very low in Cyprus. Nevertheless, and because of the fact that the “very high” air pollution level does not have an upper limit, there is a chance that even healthy individuals may demonstrate some symptoms like eye irritation, coughing and breathing discomfort. Such symptoms may become more pronounced as air pollution becomes worse within the “very high” air pollution level.
Where can I find more information regarding air quality in Cyprus?
The competent authority for monitoring ambient air is the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section of Department of Labour Inspection (DLI). The officers of the Air Quality and Strategic Planning Section can assist for any matter related to air quality. Also, an outdoor panel is showing up information related to Air Quality and it is located in front of Lycabettus police station. Two 32" internal panels are showing content related to Air Quality and they are located in the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance (MLWSI) and at the Nicosia Citizens Center respectively.
Are there any European directives regarding Air Quality?
Yes, there are European Directives regarding Air Quality which are the following:
- Directive 2004/107/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 December 2004 relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air (Fourth Daughter Directive (2004/107/EC)).
- Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
- Directive (EU) 2015/1480 of 28 August 2015 amending several annexes to Directives 2004/107/EC and 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the rules concerning reference methods, data validation and location of sampling points for the assessment of ambient air quality.
Are there any laws in Cyprus regarding Air Quality?
- The Ambient Air Quality Law (77(Ι)/2010).
- The Ambient Air Quality Regulation (addresses all pollutants listed in EU Directive 2008/50 except of those covered via the so called 4th Daughter Directive) (P.I. 327/2010).
- Regulations addressing all pollutants listed within the so called 4th Daughter Directive (P.I. 111/2007 and P.I. 379/2008).
- The Air Quality (Amendment) Law of 2017 (3(I)/2017).
- The Air Quality (Limit Values for Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Oxides, Particulates, Lead, Carbon Monoxide, Benzene and Ozone in Ambient Air) (Amendment) Regulations of 2017 (P.I. 37/2017).
- The Air Quality (Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ambient Air) (Amendment) Regulations of 2017 (P.I. 38/2017).