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Berlin Environmental Atlas

03.12 Long-Term Development of Air Quality (2018 Edition)

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Immissions

Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide were measured at all measurement stations (using the chemiluminescence procedure), dust of the PM10 fraction at eleven stations (by measuring the scattering of light by dust particles, ozone at seven stations (through absorption of UV radiation), carbon monoxide at two stations (through absorption of infrared radiation), benzene at four stations (through gas chromatography) and sulphur dioxide at two stations (through UV fluorescence). Heavy metals and benzo(a)pyrene were additionally determined in the PM10 fraction at three or four measurement stations, respectively.

The stations are distributed around the city in such a way that various spatial effect factors can be ascertained. Of the 16 stations, six are located along heavily travelled streets, five are in inner-city areas (both residential and commercial) and five are at the periphery of the city or in forest areas. Three stations are equipped with devices for measuring benzene and toluene.

Every weekday at 12 midday the measured values of the previous day are sent to several newspapers and radio and TV stations for public broadcast. Additionally, the values are published on the Internet, and can be accessed there under Tageswerte des BLUME-Messnetz ("Daily values of the BLUME measurement network"; only in German). In the case of increased ozone concentrations in the city, this information is broadcast to the public by some radio stations. As mentioned above, the separate website "Berliner Luftgütemessnetz" (Berlin Air Quality Measurement Network) offers a comprehensive range of data and analyses.

Monthly and annual reports, which, in addition to an evaluation of the preceding measurement period, also contain site tables of the measurement stations and an overview of limit and target values, are also available online (only in German).

Since 1997, the network has been expanded by initially 20, and now 23 small, low cost sampling devices installed at the streets, the samples of which are analyzed in the laboratory (RUBIS Measurement Network, as of September 2018). With these miniaturized devices, weekly samples of benzene and soot have been collected. In addition, passive collectors have been installed at these sites to ascertain nitrogen oxide values. These devices collect samples for periods of 14 days, which are then analyzed in the laboratory. These manually generated data are, due to the time lag necessary for analysis between measurement and generation of results, and also due to their minimal temporal resolution, only published as annual mean values in the annual reports.

The results of the measurements of the last years allow the following conclusions to be drawn:

  • Compared with the 1970s and '80s, the atmospheric burden of most air pollutants has been reduced by orders of magnitude. Thus, for example, sulphur dioxide concentrations have been reduced by > 90 %, and under no circumstances exceed the EU limit values for immissions.
    With regard to PM10, the situation has improved significantly compared to the years at the beginning of this century. However, the PM10 burden strongly depends on the meteorological conditions of propagation. In particular, high pressure conditions in winter with low southerly to easterly winds lead to a high accumulation of PM10 particulates in the air in the Berlin area, some of which are brought to Berlin by long-distance transport and some of which originate from sources within the city, primarily road traffic. In the years with worse exchange conditions, such as 2009-2011 and also 2014, the annual mean PM10 concentrations were slightly higher, whereas in the years with better exchange conditions, such as 2007 and 2008 as well as 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, they were correspondingly lower. The annual mean concentrations of PM10 for 2017 detected at the stations of the automatic monitoring network were 16-18 µg/m³ in the suburbs, 20-22 µg/m³ in inner-city areas and 23-28 µg/m³ along heavily travelled streets. Therefore, the annual mean limit was not exceeded even at the measuring point with the highest load. Also the RUBIS measurements for 2017 did not find evidence of limit exceedances for PM10 in urban canyons. Also, the short-term limit value for PM10 (the daily mean must not exceed the value of 50 µg/m³ more than 35 times a year) was not exceeded at any measuring point in 2017.
  • However, there are still substances which regularly exceed the limits values, in particular areas with road influences. Especially nitrogen dioxide NO2, whose measurements in 2017 were between 41 and 49 µg/m³ near roads. The limit of the 39th BlmSchV (40 µg/m³) effective since 2010 was thus exceeded at all six automatic measuring points near roads, although at station 174 (Frankfurter Allee) only barely with 41 µg/m³. The values for near-ground ozone (only in German) also frequently exceed the EU's long-term 8-hour target at several sites during the summer months. In Berlin, limit values were exceeded on up to 8 days in the summer of 2017 in peripheral and inner-city areas. The EU-wide target for 2010 of a maximum of 25 days per calendar year averaged over the last 3 years, was fulfilled in 2017, as only 15-24 exceedances were detected. Since January 1, 2010, this target value is to be kept as far as possible.
  • Improvements of the air quality have to do with many components. The de-industrialization of Berlin, the modernization of plants, the use of catalytic converters in vehicles, and the changeover to more low-emission heating fuels had an impact.

The detailed, always current overview and compilation of the quality of Berlin's air is provided online (only in German).

But since immissions are also influenced by supra-regional effects and weather events, an analysis of causes cannot be only local, but rather must also investigate the immission of pollutants from outside, including cross-border transportation (cf. again Berlin Clean Air Plan 2011-2017).

For the present Map 03.12.1 Long-Term Development of Air Quality – Immissions, all available data collected in the measurement programmes described over the past 40 years was compiled and prepared statistically and graphically with regard to the measurement year. For spatial distribution of current and former measurement stations and measurement points, the following data can be accessed for each station:

  • address
  • type of station
  • description of neighbourhood (including photos)
  • coordinates
  • measurement parameters
  • period of measurement
  • measured values (as diagrams and as EXCEL tables).

The stations are divided into the categories traffic, residential area, industrial, suburban, and meteorological stations.

A total of 187 measurement stations are presented, of which 39 are still in operation (16 BLUME measurement containers, and 23 RUBIS measurement points, as of September 2018).

For the graphic representation of the development of the parameters total dust, particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen monoxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene and ozone (O3), the following limit and target values were referred to, which serve the purposes of health protection, unless otherwise stated:

Tab. 3: Limit and target values for selected air pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, NOx, CO, benzene and ozone, cadmium, nickel, benzo(a)pyrene and lead)
Mean value for Limit value Compliance date
24 h


1 year

50 µg/m3 PM10
35 exceedings/year

40 µg/m3 PM10
since 01/01/2005


since 01/01/2005
Indicator for mean PM2.5 exposition, 1 year

Limit value for health protection
stage 1, 1 year

Limit value for health protection
stage 2, 1 year

20 µg/m3 PM2.5


25 µg/m3 PM2.5


20 µg/m3 PM2.5
since 01/01/2015


since 01/01/2015


as of 01/01/2020
1 h


24 h


mean value, October - March
(for the protection of ecosystems)
350 µg/m3 SO2
24 exceedings/year

125 µg/m3 SO2
3 exceedings/year

30 µg/m3 SO2
3 exceedings/year
since 01/01/2005


since 01/01/2005


since 01/01/2005
1 h


1 year

200 µg/m3 NO2
18 exceedings/year

40 µg/m3 NO2
since 01/01/2010


since 01/01/2010
1 year
(for the protection of ecosystems)
30 µg/m3 NOx since 01/01/2002
8 h

10 µg/m3 CO
maximum 8-h mean of a day
since 01/01/2005
1 year

5 µg/m3 benzene since 01/01/2010
8 h
(target value)
120 µg/m3 ozone
top 8-h mean of a day
25 exceedings/ 3-year mean
since 01/01/2010
1 year
(calendar year)
6 ng/m3 arsenic (part of PM10)
(target value)
since 31/12/2012
1 year
(calendar year)
5 ng/m3 cadmium (part of PM10)
(target value)
since 31/12/2012
1 year
(calendar year)
20 ng/m3 nickel (part of PM10)
(target value)
since 31/12/2012
1 year
(calendar year)
1 ng/m3 benzo(a)pyrene (part of PM10)
(target value)
since 31/12/2012
1 year
(calendar year)
0,5 µg/m3 lead (part of PM10)
(limit value)
since 01/01/2005
Tab. 3: Limit and target values for selected air pollutants
(PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, NOx, CO, benzene and ozone, cadmium, nickel, benzo(a)pyrene and lead)

The average exposure indicator (AEI) was defined to measure the population’s exposure to PM2.5 in the urban background. Based on PM2.5 levels recorded at relevant measurement stations over a three-year period, the indicator is calculated for each EU member state individually yielding an annual moving average. The average spanning the years 2008 to 2010 was defined as the AEI for 2010 (reference year), which was 16.4 µg/m³. Based on the AEI 2010, a national target to reduce PM2.5 by 15 % by 2020 has been set in accordance with the 39th BImSchV. Therefore, the AEI 2020 (average from 2018 to 2020) must not exceed 13.9 µg/m³.

This overview provides further statutory limit and target values for air quality (only in German).

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