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Helsinki air quality has improved

Stricter provisions on sulphur emissions from shipping in the Baltic Sea that came into force at the beginning of 2015 have already made an impact on Helsinki's air quality, which is better now than it has been for years.

Rahtilaiva Suomenlahdella.
A freighter in the Gulf of Finland. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Under the terms of the EU Sulphur Directive the sulphur limit for marine fuels was cut to 0.1 per cent in emission control areas, including in the Baltic Sea. In practice, this meant that ships had to meet new requirements by using low-sulphur fuel, installing scrubbers or shifting to the use of alternative fuels.

Air quality monitoring by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY observed a fall in pollution from sulphur emissions already last year.

Better than in years

Over the whole of last year air quality in the capital was generally better than it had been for years, most of the time ranging from "satisfactory" to "good". The biggest dip in air quality ratings was seen during the spring when large amounts of dust got kicked up in the air following the melting of winter snow and ice. In addition, levels of nitrogen dioxide from motor vehicle traffic were high along some of the city's most heavily used thoroughfares.

HSY also carried out a localized air quality study in the vicinity of a waste disposal plant operated by the Vantaan Energia power company. It found that levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, heavy metals and atmospheric particulates were low, indicating that the plant was not adversely affecting air quality to any significant degree.

The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority maintains 11 air quality monitoring stations in a variety of environments around the city, keeping track of pollution from maritime, air and road traffic, as well as energy production.

A real-time evaluation of air quality in Helsinki can be found here.

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