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Helsinki scraps mould database plans

Many Finnish cities offer reports about mould and mildew in public buildings on request, but only two maintain centralised renovation and research registers.

Oppilaiden kädet pöydällä
Many schools in Finland have issues with mould and mildew, which affects students as well as teachers. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

An Yle survey of Finland's ten largest cities shows that reports on the air quality and mould levels inside public buildings are very rarely published.

Only two cities, Vantaa and Turku, currently keep public databases on the air quality in buildings such as schools. Vantaa regularly updates a web page on active anti-mold and other renovations.

Turku employs a similar website with bulletins on the indoor air quality of various properties, and says it is planning to broaden the service.

Helsinki backtracks

In capital Helsinki the issue of poor-quality air has been a talking point for many years running, with the health of teachers and students alike being affected. Earlier this year the city said it would open a web service containing all indoor air reports for all Helsinki schools in May. These plans were abandoned on Thursday due to the reports allegedly containing sensitive security information.

City property manager Sari Hildén says that individual Helsinki schools can publish information on their own indoor air situations, and people can seek it there or ask the city for a specific report.

In reality only two Helsinki schools, Arabia and Puotila, actually keep data on their indoor air. The Union of Helsinki Parents' Associations said on Friday that it is very disappointed by the city's cancelled plans.

Disparate plans

No unified method of reporting on indoor air quality is in place in Finland, so each city or school provides the information it sees fit in whatever manner it wants.

Plans are in place for a centralised database in Oulu, which would gather reports on mildew levels and other information on schools in the area. Currently no public data is accessible, except in written form in the office of the principal of each school.

Schools in Kuopio publish abstracts of the full reports on their own websites. City health and safety expert Petri Hartikainen says that putting up the reports as is would not be a good idea.

"For a full picture of the situation to be accessible, the online material should include not only the full report but also constant updates on the renovations, work oversight and the development of the situation. This is crucial information for school and occupational health," Hartikainen says.

Other cities in the survey also provide reports upon request. Such services are not well publicised, however, as calls for such data are rare: some dozens a year in Kuopio, Pori, Tampere, Turku and Vantaa and just a handful in Lahti and Jyväskylä.

Only in Kuopio is it possible to investigate an indoor air quality report together with an expert from the local Service Centre for Facilities and Real Estate Management.

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