Air pollution control

Clean air is essential for the wellbeing of people and other living organisms. Air pollution control policies are aimed at safeguarding a healthy and pleasant living environment and maintaining viable ecosystems.

Harmful effects on human health, ecosystems and buildings

Air pollution damages health and the environment. Particles, heavy metals and gaseous air pollutants have harmful effects on human health. Fine particulate matter that penetrates deep into the alveoli in the lungs is associated with lung diseases, and many PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are carcinogens. Furthermore, air pollutants acidify both water and the soil, cause eutrophication in water bodies and generate harmful ozone in the lower atmosphere. They also cause material damage in the built environment.

Because of these harmful effects on human health and the environment, limit values and guideline values have been set for air pollution with the intention of steering the authorities’ and operators’ activities to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Emissions have decreased, but there are still harmful effects

As a result of the systematic measures to control air pollution, emissions and acidifying depositions have decreased considerably in Finland over the past 30 years. There has been a moderate fall in the amounts of street dust and nitrogen dioxide, but the amounts of long-range transport of ozone have not fallen. Although emissions have decreased and the limit values for air quality are seldom exceeded, people are still exposed to poor air quality. Especially the emission sources at breathing height in urban areas (small-scale burning of wood and street dust) are the culprits for this. Furthermore, population growth, the ageing of the population and urbanisation increase the number of people exposed to air pollutants. Further cuts are also required in agricultural emissions.

National Air Pollution Control Programme 2030

The prevention of the harmful effects of air pollutants is enhanced with the help of the National Air Pollution Control Programme adopted by the Government in March 2019. The Programme includes the measures required for the implementation of the EU’s National Emission Ceilings Directive (2016/2284) and other measures required for the improvement of air quality. The emissions of the Åland Islands are included in the National Programme, but Åland Islands makes the decisions concerning its emission reduction measures independently.

International cooperation and EU affairs

Gaseous and particulate air pollutants may spread to the neighbouring regions and even to the other side of the globe. As a considerable proportion of the fine particulate matter and airborne acidifying and eutrophying pollutants in Finland are long-range transported pollution, international collaboration as well as national measures are required if we are to achieve the objectives of air pollution control policies.

The most important agreement concerning air pollution control is the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution concluded to control the transport of air pollutants between countries and the protocols supplementing the Convention.

In addition to international agreements, efforts are made within the European Union to reduce exposure to air pollution through EU legislation (EU directives and regulations) and by taking national measures.

Inquiries

Sirpa Salo-Asikainen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 077, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Published 2019-08-12 at 10:03, updated 2019-08-12 at 10:01