The Main Air Pollution Problem in Egypt

There are numerous sources to air pollution in Egypt, as in other countries. However, the formation and levels of dust, small particles and soot are more characteristic in Egypt than presently found in industrialized countries. Some of the sources for these pollutants, such as industries, open-air waste burning and transportation, were also well known problems in most countries only 10 to 20 years ago.

Another important source for particulate matter is the wind blown dust from the arid areas. These particles are, however, to be found in the larger particle fraction. We will show, for instance from data collected at Tabbin in southern Cairo, that the inhalable (thoracic) particles (diameter less than 10 micrometer, PM10 ) are mainly generated from industrial processes.

To illustrate the magnitude of the suspended particulate matter problem, Figure 2 shows the percentage of exceedance of air Quality limit value during the year 2001.

The ratio of 24-hour average maximum concentrations of PM10 and TSP (1998) relative to the Air Quality Limit value of Egypt at 70 g/m3.  

Figure 2: The percentage of Exceedance of PM10 to Air Quality Limit value of Egypt during the year of 2001.

Suspended dust (measured as PM10 and TSP) can be seen to be a major air pollution problem in Egypt. PM10 concentrations can exceed daily average concentrations during 98% of the measurement period. The Exceedances are highest in industrial areas. On the other hand it seems that the natural background of PM10 in Egypt may be close to or around the Air Quality Limit value. These levels can be found also in areas where local anthropogenic sources do not impact the measurements. Further measurements may be used in the future to quantify the relative importance of the different sources relative to a background level that varies dependent upon the area characteristics.

In addition to particles, also SO2 in urban areas and in industrial areas, as well as NO2 and CO in the streets may exceed the Air Quality Limit value.