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Street dust impacting air quality across Finland

Not only is pollen is beginning to spread, but road gravel dust and studded tyres grinding the tarmac can also cause particulates that cause breathing difficulties. There are a few ways to deal with the dust, however.

Katujen puhdistusta imulakaisukoneella Espoossa.
A street sweeper at work in Espoo. Image: Markku Ojala / AOP

While about two weeks later than usual, conditions are now ideal for spring street cleaning operations to kick up massive clouds of dust in towns and cities around the country.

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) the levels of street dust in the air are likely to reach maximum within the next few days. FMI measurements already as of Wednesday classified air quality in many locations, including Pori, Seinäjoki, Lappeenranta, Tampere, Jyvaskyla, Espoo and Lahti as "very poor".

Air quality is also poor due to dust in Varkaus, Kouvola, Hämeenlinna, Turku, Vantaa, Lohja, Pietarsaari, and Kuopio. In Raahe, Kotka, Joensuu and Hyvinkää air quality is listed as "fair".

In northern parts of the country, air quality is mostly ranked as "satisfactory". In Helsinki measures show quality as ranging between satisfactory and fair.

Dealing with the dust

One of the easiest ways of coping with seasonally elevated levels of air-borne dust is to avoid heavily-trafficked areas and rush-hour traffic. It is worthwhile keeping windows closed and airing your home only in the morning hours before street dust gets kicked up.

Anyone with respiratory problems should avoid areas where street cleaning operations are underway. Street dust can cause respiratory tract irritation in otherwise healthy people as well, causing cold-like symptoms, coughing and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

A facemask, available from pharmacies and many hardware stores, might also be a good idea. However, facemasks are not recommended for anyone over the age of 65.

Sweep, but wet down first

The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) is advising homeowners who have sanded walks and drives over the winter months to wet down areas they plan to clean before sweeping them, and to rinse them afterwards.

HSY has also issued a reminder that the use of leaf blowers for outdoor spring clean-up is banned throughout the capital region because they throw more dust into the air.

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