The states of Ceará, Pernambuco, Bahia, Goiás, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul, and the Federal District (Brasília), are the places that have some air quality monitoring station. At the stations, the concentration of air pollutants often exceeds the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). The data is available in the new version of the Air Quality Platform, launched on Thursday, the 30th, by Instituto de Energia e Meio Ambiente (IEMA). Learn more at https://energiaeambiente.org.br/qualidadedoar
“The data gathered on the new website shows that air quality monitoring in Brazil is insufficient in both space and pollutant coverage,” explained David Tsai, IEMA’s project coordinator. Currently, the states with the most adequate coverage are Rio de Janeiro with 125 stations, São Paulo with 76, and Minas Gerais with 50. The others have fewer than ten air quality monitoring stations for the entire state (see infographic below). Goiás and the Federal District, for example, don’t even monitor the main pollutants automatically: particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).
Unfortunately, PM 2.5, effectively regulated in Brazil only in 2018, is still monitored by only a few states. São Paulo is an exception in this case; it enacted state standards for the pollutant in 2013. “PM2.5 is fine solid or liquid particles, which enter the circulatory system of the human body generating health problems,” said Tsai. “The smaller the particle, the more it can pass through the body’s natural ‘filters’ such as nose and lung, and reach the bloodstream, causing several diseases.”
It is worth noting that the WHO has launched new, more restrictive reference values for air quality. The new WHO recommendations may take years to be adopted in Brazil. Still, the Platform should be used to show how air quality compares to the new references.
IEMA contacts the public agencies managing the monitoring networks to collect the data and format them into a standard format and publish them on the Platform. That is because not everyone can have automatic monitoring published on the internet in real-time. In addition, Brazil lacks a complete single information system. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Espírito Santo are able to disclose their data continuously. Other states that publish the information do so in annual reports, for example.
Watch the live session of the launch:
The air we breathe
In general, stations are installed in dense urban areas, where more people may be affected by polluted air or in the vicinity of large industrial sources of pollutant emissions. Stations are missing in places that suffer from fires, such as in the entire Northern region.
“We need a strong effort to expand air quality monitoring networks, then we will be able to scale and direct efforts to improve it, implementing emission reduction measures,” said Tsai. Monitoring is the first step in good air quality management, which can be summarized in the following cycle of actions: monitoring and verifying air quality; identifying sources of pollutant emissions; and adopting emission reduction measures.
To reduce emissions of air pollutants, it is necessary to reduce transport emissions, prevent and control fires, and control industrial pollution. In fact, transport is a widespread problem, and large cities often have air pollution problems due to the large circulation of motor vehicles. They burn fuels, generate particulates from the wear of tires, brakes, and roads, and resuspend polluting particles.
Unfortunately, the country lacks a basic monitoring network and a complete information system. In Brazil, states are responsible for monitoring air quality. Still, most of them have difficulties generating, analyzing, and publishing air quality information. Air quality management is regulated through the Resolutions of the National Environment Council (Conselho Nacional do Meio Ambiente – CONAMA).
Air Quality Platform
The Air Quality Platform gathers and standardizes the air quality monitoring data generated by the government. It is an analysis tool to facilitate the management of air quality by the authorities and to bring information to society and the scientific community. Regarding its previous version, the new Platform was developed with data categorized according to the air quality index in an intuitive and easy-to-understand way. The Ministry of the Environment established this index to communicate air pollution. Daily air quality data up to 2020 were included in most states. And Ceará is a novelty on the site.
In short, the Platform displays information station by station about what is being measured, where there is an air quality station, which pollutants are monitored in each station, if there was enough monitoring in the station (days when there was no data reading), and the evolution of pollution over time. It is also possible to compare Brazilian data with WHO recommendations.
For that, the IEMA team talks with each air quality management institution, establishing partnerships for data sharing, including the State Environmental Agencies, city administrations, and the Ministry of the Environment. Those who contribute to the Air Quality Platform are the Federal District, the states of Bahia, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Minas Gerais, Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul, the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the Ministry of Environment.