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Rising Air Pollution in the Area Fuels Health Concerns

Several Western Balkan nations are reporting alarmingly high air pollution levels, with some of their cities ranking among the most polluted on the planet.

As some of the world’s most polluted cities, the Western Balkans’ air quality has once again come under the spotlight. Tuesday, Pljevlja in northern Montenegro was listed by IQAir, a well-known real-time air quality information network, as one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.

Since January 1, the AQI index in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo has been between 168 and 186 out of 500, marking air quality in Sarajevo as unhealthy for the public.

Before New Year’s Eve, the city administration imposed the first level of preparedness, banning all vehicles with Euro 2 and lower emission standards from driving, but this measure was then revoked. Besides Sarajevo, cities, and towns like Sokolac, Tuzla, Zenica, and Kakanj are also heavily polluted.

People enjoy a sunny day on the mountain near the village of Kuckovo, over the smog and pollution-covered capital Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia, on 02 January 2023. For the last ten days, several Macedonian cities have been among the 50 most polluted in the world.

The capital city of Skopje has been covered in fog, smog, and extreme pollution for several days. Many airplane flights have been canceled, especially morning flights. According to IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, last ten days, the North Macedonian capital was three times ranked among the most polluted cities in the world.

The levels of toxic PM10 and PM 2.5 particles in the air measured by IQAir in Skopje were about 28 times higher than the safety threshold established by the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, had a US AQI score of 111 and a PM 2.5 concentration that was 7.9 times the WHO recommended level, which is dangerous for vulnerable populations.

However, on Wednesday, at least nine towns and cities in Serbia had US AQI readings over 150, which is deemed unhealthy for all population categories.

More than 95% of Serbia’s population, according to the National Ecological Association (NTA), lives in areas where the average annual concentration of PM 2.5 particles—the most harmful to human health—is higher than what the WHO considers safe.