Air Pollution in Ankara

In 2008, Ankara was listed as one of the world’s worst cities for air pollution.

The large increase in natural gas prices and the distribution of free coal by municipalities prior to local elections has led to an enormous jump in pollution levels in Ankara, reaching 9,350 micrograms per cubic meter in the Sıhhiye district.  According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the acceptable level of pollution is a maximum of 300 micrograms. 

“This is one of the highest levels in the world’s history. When pollution rose over 4,000 micrograms per cubic meter in London in 1952, approximately 4,000 people died,” Dr. Recep Akdur, an expert in public health.

Other articles from the same time period also discuss the burning of coal and traffic.  See, and

Believe me, you don’t want to visit neighborhoods such as Keçiören during coal-burning months.  It makes one literally gasp for air.  Nor do you want to drive down Alparslan Türkeş Bulvarı (Çankırı Blv.) when the factories are illegally releasing nasty toxins into the air just kilometers from the Ankara airport.

These articles and the current air conditions have caused me to question what Turkey is doing to resolve the issues of air pollution.  Firstly, coal is not usually burned in the Summer months.  In addition, the Ankara traffic is lighter during the Summer because large numbers of residents are vacationing on the sea coasts.

Air pollution should be less noticeable during the Summer and yet, my husband and I have been suffering from sinus headaches for many days.  Yesterday, I decided to go for a short walk in my neighborhood.  It was overcast and a bit cooler than it had been in recent weeks.  But my walk was cut short.  I just couldn’t breathe.  Every Spring and Summer there seems to be a constant fume permeating the air.  It smells something like burning plastic.  It’s strongest during the day, and disappears in the evening only to return the next morning.

This article from May 2012 shows Ankara still struggling with air pollution:

In terms of sulfur dioxide air pollution caused by fossil fuels, İstanbul is the seventh most polluted city in the world, while Ankara ranks 26th.

The WHO’s limit value for air quality is annual mean concentrations of 20 micrograms per cubic meter for particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (Ankara is 35 mcg, İstanbul 42 mcg), 40 micrograms for nitrogen dioxide (Ankara 46 mcg, İstanbul was not included in the report), and daily mean concentrations of 20 micrograms per cubic meter for sulfur dioxide (Ankara 55 mcg, İstanbul 120 mcg).

Particularly in terms of sulfur dioxide concentration, which is described as a pollutant resulting from the consumption of coal, diesel fuel and gasoline containing sulfur, Turkey’s two largest cities İstanbul and Ankara are placed rather high on the list of most polluted cities: İstanbul is ranked seventh and Ankara 26th out of 97 cities. . .

Regarding nitrogen dioxide, which is known to cause irritation in the nasal cavity, Ankara ranks 45th out of 86 cities. . .

The other pollutant in the report is particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 microns. The report gives the rate of such matter based on measurements carried out in 1990 and 2009. Although both İstanbul and Ankara have decreased the amount of particulate matter in the air by half within the 19-year period, in 2009 İstanbul still holds 39th place, while Ankara is 48th out of 111 cities on the list. . .

. . . According to the WHO, air pollution is a major risk to health, and it’s possible to reduce the cases of respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer by reducing air pollution levels. Chronic exposure to particulate matter contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.

Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, major sources of which are combustion processes such as heating, power generation and engines in vehicles and ships, causes the symptoms of bronchitis to increase in asthmatic children. It is also associated with reduced lung function growth. As to the effects of sulfur dioxide, overexposure may cause problems in the respiratory system and lungs, and eye irritation. When combined with water, sulfur dioxide forms sulfuric acid, the main component of acid rain.

According to the WHO findings, air pollution in cities is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths a year globally. The WHO Air Quality Guidelines demonstrates that by reducing particulate matter pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter, it is possible to decrease air quality-related deaths by around 15 percent.

Come on Turkey, we don’t need this!!!  What are you doing about it???

17 thoughts on “Air Pollution in Ankara

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  1. I’ll bet there isn’t a treaty or convention to do with the environment etc that Turkey hasn’t signed up to – the right of every citizen to a clean and safe environment is written into the constitution and yet there is nor enforcement at all. This country is one of the most bio-diverse on the planet but they have just handed over the environmental protection ministry from forests to tourism – say it all!

  2. OSTİM (where the industrial park is) and surrounding area has to be the worst place in the city for air pollution. We live on the east side of Çankaya and don’t really notice much pollution. There are plenty of trees and forests over here, no factories, so that obviously helps. A lot of our allergies are dust related, but you can’t avoid that anywhere in Anatolia. But we were thinking of moving to Keçiören for a job and now we’re re-thinking it because of your post.

    1. Hi Justin, I appreciate the comment. It’s interesting that you referred to the “east side”. Have you noticed that no one here seems to use these directions? North? South? East? West? I’ve gotten so used to it that I have no idea which side of Cankaya I am on. Anyway, regarding the point of your message, I encourage you to look into air quality, especially if you will live there for a longer period of time. But please don’t make any decisions based on what I wrote. Things to look for, if possible, are the number of homes burning coal in the area, and also the spraying of pesticides which I think is common over there. I’m not going to get into the politics of it being an extremely conservative neighborhood. 🙂 Who knows, you may end up neighbors with Erdogan himself and he might “take care” of you! Good luck with the job!

      1. If I knew I would live next to Erdogan himself I’d definitely move there. 🙂 I had never been to that part of town before this week and I was surprised to see the giant waterfalls, really pretty. I don’t know, I sometimes hear “NSWE” locations when people talk of where they live. And we live off of “Doğu Kent” blvd., which reminds us we don’t live in Batıkent, for instance.
        A local friend told me today we’d be better off moving to Bahçelievler because it’s closer to Keçiören but has the fun of the city with plenty of greenspace and without the pollution. I’m not sure I buy that; any thoughts? I’ve been pretty impressed with Çankaya’s maintenance of the parks and street sweeping and such. I’m wondering if the other areas are as well-equipped.

      2. Hi Justin, it would be misleading for me to guide you on these neighborhoods. I really don’t know them that well. I knew people in Kecioren, so I spent more time there. But you should definitely try to get out and explore. I know commuting to work is a hassle. But everyone has there own set of “must haves” when selecting a place to live. Best to you!

    1. Hello! I took a look at your piece – and would love to have the citations for your quotes from the Turkish Minister of Environment and Urban Planning. Think about it – those are two offices that are inherently opposed to each other. The two titles that used to be separate – The Minister of the Environment was combined with the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. The Minister of Urban Planning was a separate office. If one is head of urban planning – that is – growing the city, how can his main concern be the environment? It’s a contradiction!
      And to answer your question, no, I am not exaggerating. The numbers are from the World Health Organization.

  3. Hi, I would love to have the citations as well. It is not my piece, I found it just yesterday and laughed at it. And today I read your post and thought I’d share this rather funny story with you.

    1. Oh, now I understand. That’s a blog written by a guy who works with a real estate company. They sell property in Turkey to foreigners. So it all makes sense that they would twist the issue and not add citations to the work.

      1. Sorry, the one I supplied. I agree with you. I live in Istanbul and that pollution is one of my paranoias. However, I am also known to be a bit of a hypochondriac, so….

  4. So I just met someone from Turkey in lab today and your website gave me a million things in common to talk about!

    1. That’s what I love about you Kev. Most of my nieces and nephews, in the same situation, would say, “My aunt lives there. She writes a blog.” Conversation over. They have no idea what I write about! And the idea of visiting my is merely a nice thing they say and save for “someday.”

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