Primary NO2 emissions and their impact on air quality in traffic environments in Germany
FB C/Physikalische Chemie, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Gaußstraße, D-42097, Wuppertal, Germany
Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:21 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-21Published: 25 June 2012
The decreasing NOX concentrations at urban measurement stations in Germany are in agreement with the reduction of NOX emissions from vehicular traffic. However, the measured NO2 concentrations are stagnating nationwide. In 2010, at more than the half of the urban measurement stations in Germany, annual mean values for NO2 exceeded the new Europe-wide limit value of 40 μg/m3 (20 ppbv) NO2. Similar findings are reported from many other member states of the European Union.
The observed trend of the airborne NO2 concentrations has different reasons. Firstly, the NO2/NOx emission ratio has increased significantly during the last two decades. Furthermore, secondary NO2, caused by the titration reactions of NO with ozone (O3) and peroxy radicals (RO2), is responsible for the major fraction (approximately 70%) of the measured NO2. However, secondary NO2 shows a highly nonlinear dependency on NOx and thus, is decreasing much more slowly than expected from the decreasing NOx levels. Based on the results from the present study, the increased NO2/NOX emission ratio can only explain a minor fraction of the observed high airborne NO2 concentration in the city center.
A further reduction of primary NO2 emissions, due to improved exhaust gas treatment, will not have a strong influence on urban NO2 levels, and a further significant reduction of the NOX emissions, in particular from vehicular traffic, is necessary in order to meet the annual mean limit value for NO2 of about 20 ppb in the future.