Air quality zones

Assessment of the country’s level of substances is performed in the zones. The division of Poland into zones is based on the Regulation of the Minister of the Environment of 2 August 2012 concerning the zones where air quality is evaluated (Journal of Laws of 2012, item 914). This Regulation has replaced the Regulation of the Minister of the Environment of 6 March 2008 concerning zones where air quality is evaluated (Journal of Laws No. 52, item 310). The need for a new zone division was directly linked to the implementation of the CAFE Directive into national legislation. This amendment led to the change in the number of zones in the country; at present there are 46, previously there were 170.

The areas, names and codes of zones in which air quality assessments are carried out have been specified in the Annex to the Regulation. At present, 46 zones in Poland cover:

  • 2 agglomerations,
  • 18 cities with population over 100 thousand residents,
  • 16 areas of voivodships not falling within the agglomeration and cities above 100 thousand residents.

The annual assessment of air quality, carried out separately for each substance, is the basis for the classification of zones into one of three categories:

  • A class - the concentration of pollution in the zone does not exceed the limit/target value;
  • C class – the concentration of pollution is above the limit value plus the margin of tolerance, (it concerned only PM2.5 in the years 2010-2014) or it is above the limit/target values if the margin of tolerance is not specified (other substances).

Over the years 2010-2014, Class B was also marked out for the zone where the concentration of pollution reaches the value above the acceptable level, but not exceeding the limit level plus margin of tolerance (it concerned PM2,5 only).

The results of the classification (published in the table from 2008) are the basis for determining the need to undertake and implement measures to improve air quality in a given area (including the development of POP air protection programmes). The assessment of air quality should provide information on the spatial distribution of air pollution in the zone area so that it would be possible to specify in detail the areas of exceedances of normative levels and concentrations levels, and also indicate the likely causes of the excessive concentrations of air pollutants in the specified areas (to the extent feasible on the basis of the information available). Such knowledge is needed to be enable preparing of recovery programmes for designated areas and take specific actions and in the future also monitor their effectiveness.

The rules for annual assessment indicate that the categorization of the zone is based on the concentrations in the most polluted areas. This results in the fact that high concentrations of pollution even in a small area determine the assignment of a zone to Class C. This is obviously not the case with poor air quality throughout the whole zone, but as indicated by legislator "only a signal" that preventive measures should be implemented. However, on the other hand, due to the growing interest in air protection issues, the social reception of such a situation can be unequivocally negative.

Zone classes and required evaluation activities (za WIOŚ Wrocław):

Elaborated by Drzeniecka-Osiadacz