Measurements by the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) show that in 2016, 57 percent of German streets with high traffic had levels of nitrogen dioxide that were higher than the safe limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, figures published on Tuesday showed.
“Nitrogen dioxide has been endangering our health for decades,” said UBA head Maria Krautzberger, adding that diesel engines were largely responsible for the health threat.
Krautzberger said that Germans “should not accept” that cities continue to allow polluting diesel engines to be driven through city centres.
There was better news regarding the level of particulates in the air. In 2016, the recorded levels dropped to a quantity not seen since the year 2000. Only in Stuttgart, which suffers from chronic pollution problems, did the levels exceed the EU's recommended limit.
But the UBA warned that in one in four measuring stations, the levels of particulates exceeded the World Health Organization's (WHO) safe limit, which is more stringent than that of the EU.
Both high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates can lead to breathing problems as well cardiovascular disease.