Only dust and fires “spoil” the “good levels of air quality” in the Algarve

Air quality values ​​monitored in the four seasons of the region have been «consistently below the air quality limit values ​​that are legislated in Portugal»

The Algarve «has, as a rule, good levels of air quality», especially with regard to pollutants of anthropogenic origin, that is, resulting from human activity. But, whenever there is an episode of dust coming from North Africa, as happened yesterday, or a fire, the air quality can worsen.

To explain how the network of air quality monitoring stations operating in the region, the Sul Informação spoke with Maria José Nunes, director of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Biodiversity Unit of the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR).

The CCDR Algarve is the entity responsible for the management and maintenance of the four stations, located in Cerro (Alcoutim), Escola Joaquim Magalhães (Faro), Cerro do Malpique (Albufeira) and Escola Major David Neto (Portimão).


Figure 1 – network of air quality monitoring stations in the Algarve


Maria José Nunes explains that the Alcoutim station is rural in background, while the Albufeira and Faro are background. And what does that mean?

That “there is no source of anthropogenic emissions nearby”, that is, that there is no source of emission of possible pollutants caused by human activity in the vicinity.

«In the case of the Cerro de Malpique Urban Background Station, in Albufeira, and the Joaquim de Magalhães School Urban Background Station, in Faro, they are in the city, but why are they in the background? Because they are not next to a road with a lot of traffic, over x vehicles per day», explained Maria José Nunes.

«The station Faro It is within the grounds of the Joaquim de Magalhães School, so it is in a very private place. The Malpique station, in Albufeira, is above the water tank, it is also an extremely private place, the prices are low».

For example, “if we were to put a station on Hayward City Avenue, here in Faro, it would be an Urban Traffic Station». And the pollutant levels would certainly be different, much higher.

Of the four stations to measure air quality in the Algarve, only the one in Portimão is «traffic», having been installed «next to one of the access roads to the V6», one of the places with the most traffic in the city.

«In fact, at rush hour, this station records higher values ​​of nitrogen oxides and particles», due to the movement of cars, but these values ​​are considered good, since «they do not violate the limit set out in the law".

Yesterday afternoon, at this station in the city of Portimão (see figure 2), although the levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide were normal, the level of PM10 particles (particles with a diameter equal to or less than 10 micrometers µm) was a little high, as can be seen in the graph. This particle value may have had to do with the presence of dust, making the air quality at that station only average.


Figure 2 – Particle levels at Portimão station, yesterday afternoon


In such a way that, as can be seen in figure 1, the yellow of this station contrasted with the dark green (good quality) of the Cerro de Malpique (Albufeira) and Cerro (Alcoutim) stations or even with the light green (very good quality) from the Joaquim de Magalhães School, in Faro.

The southernmost station on the continent is Alcoutim. Despite being located in a high place, with good air, «it is the one that usually catches particle events first, as we had two weeks ago, when the values ​​recorded were very high».

«We don't have any stations close to industrial areas, because, knowing the economic fabric of the region, we don't have heavy industries, so we don't feel that need either», added the official.

This is because «the locations of the stations are the result of directives and technical notes that indicate how far they have to be, what has to be there, what has to be measured».

«All of this is work that is done by technicians from the organic unit that I manage at CCDR Algarve, and which is work that is extremely well qualified by the national laboratories, as all maintenance needs to be carried out. This is not like a vacuum cleaner at home where we only clean the filter every now and then. There is a lot to do here, a lot to change, to measure, to calibrate, so that the data on the QualAR website is accurate».

«This means that there has to be a very high financial commitment, since this equipment is very sensitive», said the director of the Environment Unit.

Maria José Nunes highlighted, in her interview with Sul Informação, that, «in general, air quality values ​​in the Algarve are good or very good».

There are only “violations” of the maximum values ​​when there are episodes of suspended particles, such as desert dust brought from North Africa by winds from the south and southeast, as well as “when there are fires”. «Otherwise, it is a perfectly peaceful situation», guarantees the CCDR Algarve technical manager.



The economic fabric of the Algarve region, mostly based on trade, services and agri-food processing activities, «does not generate relevant atmospheric emissions, so the air quality values ​​monitored at the four monitoring stations in the region have been consistently below the air quality limit values ​​that are legislated in Portugal, through Decree-Law No. 102/2010, of September 23 », highlights CCDR Algarve.

The main pollutants that indicate the air quality situation in the region are suspended particles, ozone and nitrogen oxides, while volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide are also monitored.

Given the proximity of the African continent, «the region is often the destination of air masses containing large concentrations of suspended particles, classified as a natural event and which are subject to prior warning to the population to take extra care regarding exposure to these phenomena», he adds. the CCDR Algarve.

Air quality data monitored at monitoring stations can be consulted online in QualAR, allowing reports to be obtained for each station and each pollutant measured.


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