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Air Pollution

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Air pollution

                          Picture 6: Factory emissions      Source: World Bank

   Air pollution is a significant problem in specific locations in Macedonia. According to observations from the system of air quality monitoring stations in Macedonia, particulate matter concentrations have repeatedly exceeded EU standards (See figure below)1.   Highly urbanized and industrialized centers such as Skopje, Bitola (energy), Kavadarci (metallurgy) and Miladinovci (oil refining) are significant contributors to the background air quality conditions in these areas.

Figure: Ambient PM10 concentrations violate the EU annual concentration standard of 40 μg/m3 (2011).
(Annual average PM10 concentration at each automatic monitoring station in μg/m3 in 2011)

Air pollution table

Source: Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, 2012
Note: Karpos, Centar, Gazi Baba, Lisice and Rektorat stations are in Skopje.

   Particulate matter is one of the most significant pollutants associated with short-term and chronic respiratory disease. Fine particles and soot in the air are most dangerous when small. That’s because it is the size of the particle that determines where in the respiratory tract the particle will come to rest once inhaled. The relationship between particulate matter concentrations and health outcomes has been established in the literature2  including several studies in Macedonia3.  PM2.5 increases mortality (i.e. death) primarily due to cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer. PM10 increases morbidity (i.e. sickness) from chronic bronchitis, lower respiratory illness in children, respiratory symptoms and restricted activity days. Because of these linkages to health, PM10 concentration in the air is a key measure of air pollution. A recent study in Skopje found that an increase of PM10 by 10 μg/m3 above the daily maximum permitted level (50 μg/m3) was associated with a 12 percent increase in cardiovascular disease4.

   Approximately 1,350 lives are lost annually due to fine particulate matter air pollution with thousands of lost-productive days. Using information on air quality, population and medical research on the relationship between particulate matter and health outcomes, it is estimated that over 1,350 deaths are attributable to particulate air pollution each year.  People also suffer from the day-to-day consequences of respiratory diseases.  It is estimated that several thousand work-years are lost annually from chronic bronchitis, asthma, hospital admissions and days of restricted activity.

   Particulate matter air pollution cost the economy €253 million, or 3.2 percent of GDP in 2011.  The cost to the economy through foregone earnings due to premature mortality (death) and lost productivity at work or absenteeism is approximately €253 million per year.  This represented about 3.2 percent of GDP in 2011.

Air pollution sensor

Picture 7: Air pollution sensor    Source: World Bank

   If Macedonia were to lower PM10 and PM2.5 to EU limit values this would avoid over 800 deaths, thousands of days in lost productivity and result in €151 million in health savings per year.  Compliance with EU standards (through implementation of the air-related environmental aquis) would result in significantly fewer deaths and lost productivity. Even a 1 μg/m3 decrease in the ambient concentration of PM10 and PM2.5 would result in a potential health ‘savings’ of €34 million or 0.4 percent of GDP per year (Table below). The cost of interventions that lead to EU compliance could be justified through these savings.

Table 1. The potential health ‘savings’ associated with reductions in PM10 and PM2.5 are substantial and can be upwards of 2 percent of GDP if EU limit values were reached.
 (€ million and % GDP)

Air pollution table1

Source: Authors’ calculations.
1 – Example reductions were equally applied to both PM10 and PM2.5 and at the same time.

   Policy can be focused since the majority of particulate emissions are from few firms in the energy, metallurgy, oil and construction sectors. Industrial and energy production is concentrated in several specific locations in Macedonia – such as Bitola, Kavadarci, Kicevo, Skopje and Tetovo.  The composition of production also falls into only a handful of sectors such as energy, metallurgy, construction, oil refining and textiles.  These large-point sources can be the focus of efforts to reduce the majority air pollution.

   Local green options to reduce particulate matter include energy efficiency, fuel switching and the adoption of cleaner technologies – but the role of transboundary air pollution is also important.  Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and other production processes (e.g. metallurgy) are important in reducing air emissions. Likewise switching coal- or oil-fired boilers to natural gas would be significant. Initiatives that transform the urban landscape towards greater use of cleaner public transport should be part of a green growth strategy. However, since Macedonia’s air quality situation also includes a proportion from transboundary sources – local interventions are limited and particulate matter concentrations could only be further lowered through a regional agreement with neighboring countries.


1  Particulate matter is basically air-borne dust; PM10 and PM2.5 is dust less than 10 and 2.5 microns in diameter.

2   See Ostro, 1994; Ostro, 2004; Pope et al., 2002

3   See Kochubovski and Kendrovski, 2012; Kochubovski et al., 2008

4  See Kochubovski and Kendrovski, 2012


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