According to the European Environment Agency, 417,000 people in Europe died prematurely in 2018 due to high concentrations of airborne dust particles. In Slovakia, this number represents approximately 5,000 premature deaths. Although clean air is essential for life, most people do not associate air quality with the quality of our health.
In connection with exceeding the limit values for health protection, Slovakia has been facing infringement proceedings since 2009 for the requirements of the Air Quality Directive. On 18 February 2021, the European Commission decided to refer the case of Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the EU due to poor air quality caused by high levels of particulate matter (PM10). "Polluted air is a nationwide problem. The most significant source of air pollution caused by dust particles are households heating with solid fuel. Heating with solid fuel is a serious problem that tends to be complicated by unfavorable dispersion conditions with frequent occurrence of temperature inversions in mountain valleys, "emphasized Minister Ján Budaj. High concentrations of dust particles can be measured in busy road sections and parking lots, locally the influence of large industrial sources can manifest itself.
The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic is doing everything to improve air quality in Slovakia, in connection with which it is amending legal regulations in the field of air protection, which will bring extensive changes. In doing so, it adheres to the measures resulting from the government's program statement. The new legislation will create new, more demanding requirements for state administration, self-government, and polluters.
The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic is also preparing an extensive energy renovation of family houses, financed from the Recovery and Resilience Plan, and is expanding the national air quality monitoring network. Only in the last year, automated monitoring stations have been added in 10 cities in Slovakia, and another 4 should be added in the near future.
Since January 2020, the Ministry has been implementing the LIFE IP – Air Quality Improvement project, supported by the European Union, within which a national network of 14 air quality managers has been established. They have the task of cooperating with the state administration and the local government in the management of air quality. The project is dedicated to monitoring activities and education of the public, especially in the field of proper heating.
Within the LIFE project, several awareness raising activities are also implemented. "The website www.dnesdycham.sk was launched, which informs the public in a simplified form about the current state of air quality in Slovakia. The intention is to raise awareness of the state of air quality. The application also includes recommendations for activities depending on the health status of the citizen and the current values of air pollutants", concluded the General Director of the Slovak Environment Agency Michal Maco.
Information on project activities, contacts to air quality managers and information materials on air quality for download are available at www.populair.sk
Improving air quality in Slovakia will necessarily depend on changing the behavior of society.