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State of the environment

The air is mostly clean

Outdoor air quality in Finland has improved and continues to improve. Fine particles are the cause of most concern and health effects.
Rush hour and exhaust gases.
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Outdoor air quality is generally good in Finland. It has gradually improved as air emissions have decreased both in Finland and in neighbouring regions. Despite this, air pollution causes 1,600–2,000 premature deaths in Finland every year.

Most air quality problems occur in cities and built-up areas. Problems are caused by both local emissions and pollutants transported from elsewhere. Local emissions mostly come from traffic and household wood burning. Air quality varies greatly depending on location and time of the day.

Fine particles cause the most harm

Most of the health problems caused by air pollution are caused by fine particles. They are suspended in the air at breathing height, and the finest particles can travel all the way to the alveoli. The concentrations of fine particles have decreased slightly in recent years. This is mainly due to decreased amounts of traffic emissions and long-range transboundary air pollution.

Air quality meets EU requirements

The European Union has set limit values for the concentrations of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and some other air pollutants. EU standards are binding for the member countries: air quality must be within the limits throughout the EU area. Finland has remained within the EU air quality standards since 2015. Short-term pollution spikes still occur, though rarely. However, they do not exceed the threshold for informing population set by the EU.

Reference and target values guide planning

There are also several international and national reference and target values that have been set for the air quality. Their purpose is to protect human health and ecosystems. The most well-known are WHO's health-based reference values for air pollutants. Although the different reference values are not as binding as the EU standards, they must be taken into account, for example, in traffic planning and other planning. The WHO limit value for PM2.5 fine particles is still widely exceeded in Finland.

Air quality is monitored, pollution spikes are reported

The Finnish Meteorological Institute monitors air quality throughout Finland and maintains an air quality data bank. It also announces possible exceedances of reference and limit values. Municipalities and industrial plants monitor their own area’s air quality. Continuous monitoring creates conditions for actions that improve air quality.

Reducing emissions cleans the air

Emissions into the air in Finland have decreased and continue to decrease. The tightening emission legislation of the European Union guarantees the same development through the whole Europe. It means that less pollution is transported to Finland from the rest of Europe as well. Due to these actions, outdoor air quality in Finland will continue to improve notably by 2030.

Health problems still occur

Although the reduction of emissions improves air quality, premature deaths due to air pollution still occur: their number will decrease by only ten percent from 2015 to 2030 with the emission reduction measures. There are many reasons for the slow development: the growth of the urban population, the aging of the population, and the fact that fine particles cause serious health issues even in small concentrations.

Local actions and indoor air quality are important

In addition to international and national actions, air quality is improved by local actions. For instance, many cities have increased street cleaning. Urban planning also provides opportunities to improve the air quality of the residential environment. In order to protect health, it is especially important to take care of indoor air quality.


Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)
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