Air quality and pollutants

Air pollutants or air impurities refer to harmful airborne particles and gases. They have negative effects on our health and living environment.

Air quality varies depending on the season and the time of day. In cities, the air is the cleanest when traffic is low. Air quality is usually at its worst during the spring street dust season and during rush hour in winter.

Windy weather clears the air of pollutants more rapidly than calm weather. Rain clears the air.

Factors that negatively affect air quality include

  • traffic
  • street dust
  • energy production
  • industry
  • residential and industrial wood burning
  • pollen
  • long-range transport of airborne pollutants.

Exposure to harmful airborne substances can lead to health hazards.

The higher the air pollutant concentration is, and the longer you breathe polluted air, the higher the level of exposure.

If you have asthma, you should always carry your prescription reliever medication with you. This way, you can quickly take the medicine when symptoms start.

How to prevent exposure to air pollutants

  • In spring, avoid spending time outside on streets that are being cleaned and near busy main roads, especially in rush hour and freezing weather. You should also avoid spending time outside during the highest ozone levels.
  • Avoid driving in rush hour. If you have to drive somewhere during rush hour, keep enough distance from the car ahead of you. Use the air recirculation mode on your car’s AC to prevent exhaust fumes from getting inside your car.
  • Dry laundry indoors during the allergy season.
  • Air out your apartment only when absolutely necessary during street dust and allergy seasons.
  • Clean wood burning reduces the harmful effects of smoke, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a respirator when doing work that creates dust or if you tend to get symptoms from air pollutants.
  • Install air filters in your car and home. Remember to change the filters regularly.

The air quality index is used to describe air quality and the link between pollution levels and health risks. The index uses five categories for air quality: good, satisfactory, fair, poor, and very poor.

Different limit values have been set for air pollution to protect nature and people’s health. For current limit, target, threshold, and guideline values for air pollution, visit the air quality portal of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Everyone can contribute to better air quality through everyday choices and by participating in local land use and traffic planning.

Choose practical and environmentally friendly modes of transport

  • Walk or cycle short distances.
  • If the journey is long, take the train or bus instead of the car or plane.

Pay attention to the way you drive

  • Choose a low-emission car and use non-studded winter tyres.
  • Avoid engine idling.
  • Warm up the engine before driving if the temperature drops below +5°C.
  • Drive economically. 

Reduce the harmful effects of smoke at home

  • Choose a low-emission fireplace.
  • Only burn wood that is dry and clean.
  • Don’t burn household waste.

For more instructions, visit the section on wood burning.

Street dust prevention tips for property owners and housing companies

  • Avoid any unnecessary gritting of streets in winter.
  • Use washed, crushed stone for gritting.
  • Remove grit from the street while it is wet, or during snow removal.
  • Never use leaf blowers for grit removal.

Tips for energy-efficient living

  • Pay attention to energy efficiency during construction and renovation.
  • Pay attention to your heating method.
  • Consider equipment purchases carefully and try to find the most energy-efficient option.