Finland is also formally known as the Republic of Finland. It is a Nordic country located in the Northern part of Europe. It shares borders with Norway, Russia and Sweden. The remainder is coastline on the Baltic Sea. An official census in December 2020 estimated the population to be just over 5.5 million people. It was voted as being the happiest place to live for three consecutive years in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
At the start of 2021, Finland was experiencing a “Good “quality of air with a US AQI number of just 23. This classification is based on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
To give you an idea as to how clean the air in Finland is, in 2019 it ranked number 95 out of a possible 98 of all participating countries. The countries which beat it were Iceland, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. The Finnish figure was 5.63 followed by 5.55, 3.53 and 3.30 µg/m³, respectively. Bangladesh was classed as the dirtiest country with an “Unhealthy” figure of 83.3 µg/m³.
Personal air quality monitors are being used experimentally in Helsinki. The device is worn on the arm and is the size of a sports watch. Initially, it will be used to measure the levels of carbon monoxide. These devices will be available to borrow from the library for a period of two weeks. The main aim of the device is to find out the levels of carbon monoxide caused by traffic emissions. Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete combustion and causes health problems. It is assumed that the amount of carbon monoxide can be used to estimate the amount of air pollution in the ambient air. The measurement data can be read from the user's smartphone screen with a separate application. The device also sends location and air quality information to researchers at the University of Helsinki.
Emissions from traffic and small-scale wood burning are the biggest sources of air pollution in cities and agglomerations. Industry, energy production and agriculture also make a contribution. In agriculture, ammonia emissions are the most significant of these.
These emissions occur in places near which a large number of people live and move on a daily basis. In the vicinity of these emission sources, concentrations of particulate air pollutants, in particular, are clearly higher than the average in urban environments. In addition, small particles and some gaseous compounds effectively penetrate the interiors of homes, where a lot of time is spent.
Dust on the streets degrades the air quality and can increase readings by two fold. Washing the streets would be certainly beneficial. In March 2020, in Turku, street washing was introduced. Air quality in the region has deteriorated due to traffic and wind-generated street dust. Street dust is generated when traffic lifts dust particles from dry streets that come from dust, wear on road surfaces and brake discs, and the use of studded tyres. Motorists can alleviate the dust problem by slowing down driving speeds.
Finnish researchers followed the ship's smoke booms and deduced that world shipping is generating an incomprehensible amount of particulate emissions.
According to the study, particulate emissions from shipping are in the same range as total particulate emissions from households, industry and road transport on the mainland. In addition to the busy routes on the open seas, small particulate emissions from shipping are largely generated on the coast.
The Port of Helsinki aims to reduce emissions caused by ships during port visits. The port is about to launch several new million-dollar investments in the near future, which will expand the distribution of shore-side electricity to ships. More and more ships will be able to turn off their electricity-generating auxiliary motors whilst moored. This does not only apply to cruise liners, but to all ships calling at the port. It is estimated is that shore-side electricity can reduce climate emissions from a ship's stay in port by as much as 50-80 per cent. In total, emissions from shipping are less than three per cent of the city's total annual emissions in Helsinki.
Later this year, new shore-side electricity readiness will be added to the Helsinki South Harbour traffic in Stockholm. It will also be the turn of Tallinn's high-speed vessels to gain access to port electricity and the first cruise pier in Hernesaari will have shore-side electricity availability in 2022.
It would seem that shipping companies are enthusiastic for the availability of shore-side electricity. A spokesman from the shipping company Viking Line stated that the shipping companies are willing to use the shore-side electricity system more extensively than at present. According to him, three of Viking Line's ships already receive their electricity from the countries in three different ports. This is not a new thing for Viking, but a very good thing.
Thus, some ships calling at Helsinki's ports have already been able to use shore-side electricity, but not everyone has had the opportunity to do so. Some ships still run their electricity-generating auxiliaries while moored in port. Shore-side electricity is an effective means of flue emissions.
A spokesperson for the Port of Helsinki, says that new future projects are progressing well. The reforms require investment from the port, shipping companies and energy utilities. However, both ship-owners and the port have clearly similar views, so there is no need to worry.
Efforts have been made to limit emissions from shipping internationally. The global 0.5 per cent sulphur limit, which came into force in 2020, will encourage shipping companies to burn cleaner fuels or install flue gas scrubbers. The researchers wondered how much these restrictions would reduce emissions.
In addition to controlled laboratory conditions, the measurements were performed on a ship using a flue gas scrubber and by measuring particles from the ships' flue gas tanks by plane or helicopter. The results were pleasantly surprising because flue gas scrubber also significantly reduced the number of particles in the fresh flue gas.
Finland has had a tradition of heating homes by wood-burning stoves for many years, but these stoves pollute the air with their emissions. Wood burning regulations are tightening and forcing manufacturers into continuous product development.
A former paramedic firefighter from Ylivieskala is an inventor and entrepreneur. He has developed an add-on device to reduce emissions, which is called an air deflector. The device is placed inside the stove on top of the grate. By way of its design, the flue gases are burnt in the chamber instead of being emitted. Another advantage is that less wood is needed and the fireplace heats up more efficiently.
Burning wood produces small particles of PM2.5 that penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled and can even enter the bloodstream through it. The health effects of small particles have been talked about for so long that awareness is increasing. Still, many people think that traffic exhaust fumes, passive smoking, street dust and industrial air pollution are more harmful to health.
Small-scale wood burning has increased since the turn of the millennium. This is largely due to the cost of heating energy. When it is possible to obtain wood cheaply or free of charge, for example from one's own forest, it directs the owners of detached houses to use it either as the main form of heating or at least as additional heating.
In Finland, almost half of all particulate matter emissions come from burning wood. Legislation has been effective in reducing emissions from transport exhaust gases and industrial pollution, among other things. Emissions from small-scale wood burning, on the other hand, have not been regulated up to now.
Last year, the EU Ecodesign Directive came into force, covering new boilers and, from the beginning of 2022, new prefabricated, storage fireplaces. However, these are estimated to have little effect on the emissions of small combustion stoves over the next ten years, as the equipment is infrequently replaced and the regulations do not apply to the existing equipment or sauna heaters.
In 2019, the Finnish city with the worst air quality was Koukkuniemi, Uusimaa with a US AQI figure of 27. The cleanest air was found in Korsholm, Ostrobothnia with a figure of 17. Either way, these cities are not “dirty” when compared to other cities around the world.
People who live in rural areas do not produce more greenhouse gas emissions than urban dwellers. The differences are particularly small when comparing the emissions produced per euro consumed. When comparing households, differences arise, but households have a different number of people living in rural and urban areas.
Per capita, GHG emissions are highest in the suburbs of the big cities, i.e. immediately close to cities but not yet in rural areas. The emissions are 13,183 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent. For comparison, all greenhouse gas emissions have been converted to carbon dioxide. It is well-known that urban living is dense, it produces more greenhouse gas emissions than rural housing. The reason is district heating, which heats most homes in cities and towns. District heating is still produced profitably in Finland with coal and peat, which have large emissions. The countryside is heated by electricity and wood, whose emissions have recently decreased.
The lowest emissions were in relatively densely populated urban areas, 11,458 kilograms per capita. In practice, equally low emissions (11,460 kg) were in sparsely populated rural areas.
In the comparison, district heat emissions are calculated from the average for Finland as a whole, i.e. district heat can be produced more environmentally friendly locally. Electricity emissions, in turn, are affected by how much hydropower is purchased from Norway and Sweden or nuclear electricity from Russia.
Transport is also a major source that can be affected by anyone. The share of traffic is high, especially in rural areas close to cities, which have a lot of cars.
The results say a lot about the opportunities for different people to influence their emissions. In cities, it is worth trying to influence the way district heating is produced. In rural areas, especially near cities, a low-emission car is a way to save nature.
The most common side effects caused by particles are various irritation symptoms and mild respiratory symptoms, such as itching of the throat and eyes, runny nose and cough. High daily concentrations resulting from abundant wood heating in small houses can cause severe symptoms, especially for heart and respiratory patients. Exposure lasting several years or decades increases the risk of chronic heart and respiratory disease as well as premature deaths among these long-term patients.
Air pollution is harmful to humans and the environment. Emissions of many air pollutants in Europe have decreased significantly in recent years, resulting in improved air quality throughout the area. However, air pollution levels are still too high and air quality problems persist. A significant proportion of Europe's population lives in cities, where air quality standards are exceeded: air pollution from ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter poses serious health risks. Many countries have exceeded at least one of the four emission limit values for four major air pollutants. Reducing air pollution is therefore still important.
Particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone are now widely recognised as the three most harmful pollutants to human health. Prolonged exposure to them at high concentration levels can cause a wide range of health effects, from respiratory damage to premature death. About 90 per cent of Europe's urban population has been exposed to pollutants in higher concentrations than those considered harmful to health.
Particulate matter in the air (PM2.5), for example, has been estimated to reduce life expectancy in the EU by more than eight months. Benzo (a) pyrene is a carcinogenic pollutant of growing concern. Its concentrations exceed the threshold for the protection of human health in several urban areas, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.