Airborne particles above EU limits – winds bringing smoke from Russia
Finland — The air quality in the centre of the capital and also elsewhere in the Greater Helsinki Area has remained poor for nine days already, and the levels of airborne fine particles have repeatedly exceeded the limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air set by the European Union.
Asthma sufferer Pirjo Partanen regards the current air quality in Helsinki as horrible. On her way to work she has to pass by some street repairs that cause her respiratory problems.
On Wednesday, the air quality assessments conducted by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) indicated that the concentrations of airborne particles have more than doubled. For example, at the monitoring stations of Mannerheimintie 5 and Töölöntulli, the concentrations exceeded 100 micrograms. The readings at YTV’s other monitoring stations were also poor, and the air quality was either “fair” or “poor” in the entire city. “The current airborne pollutants consist of many kinds of fine particles. While a part of the emissions originates from the pollution that is coming from fires in Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States, carried over to Finland by the wind, some airborne dust is caused by the sand that was spread on icy streets over the winter. Also pollen and exhaust gases mix with the other pollutants”, reports Maria Myllynen from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV).
A part of the emissions originates from the pollution that comes from fires in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, among others. The areas where fires have occurred in recent days are indicated by red in the map.
Under the EU directive , the maximum permissible amount of airborne dust in city air is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. The levels can be exceeded 35 times a year. In Helsinki, the threshold has been exceeded so far 28 times at the Töölöntulli monitoring station, and 20 times at the Mannerheimintie station. * * Since 1999, researcher Jarkko Niemi of the University of Helsinki has been studying fine particles that originate from remote areas. He regards a period of nine days as exceptionally long. “Typically, some 50 to 70 percent of the airborne particles in the Greater Helsinki Area come from remote areas, while currently the proportion may be as high as 90 percent”, notes Niemi.
The City of Helsinki is currently compiling a programme that is to focus on the improvement of air quality by the summer of 2007. The aim is to reduce particularly the levels of airborne particles and nitrogen dioxide. The maximum annual limit for nitrogen dioxide was exceeded in Helsinki last year for the first time, and the city is required to inform the EU of the reasons for the excessive pollutants in the air, and to say what action is being taken to rectify the problem. Environmental inspector Jari Viinanen of the City of Helsinki’s Environment Centre believes that in order to reduce the amount of pollutants, certain measures including parking restrictions and promoting public transport will be required. Airborne pollutants can cause serious health risks to people with respiratory and coronary diseases, as well as to children.