Espoo enjoys clean air

Compared to other European cities of its size, air quality in Espoo is good, despite the occasionally high air pollutant concentrations. As in other parts of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, vehicle traffic is the biggest source of air pollution. In the springtime, the single most significant factor contributing to city air pollution is gritting sand, which adds to road dust and makes air quality poor or even very poor at times. In single-family house areas, wood burning may cause high concentrations of particulate matter, especially in cold and calm weather.

Air quality measurements in Espoo

Air quality within the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is monitored by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY). The air monitoring network consists of eight permanent stations and three mobile units, whose readings can be tracked on an hourly basis. The stations measure the concentrations of air pollutants in the city. The readings reflect the quality of air around the stations, which is why they are placed in challenging locations or places, where the level of pollution is expected to be high.

Espoo has two permanent air quality monitoring stations: one in the intersection of Lintuvaarantie and Turuntie near Ring Road I in Leppävaara, and the other in Luukki. The measurement station in Leppävaara represents a busy urban centre, while the station in Luukki provides background concentrations.

Street dust control

Street spring cleaning is a balancing act between dust prevention and overnight ice. Dust season is usually at its worst in March and April, and the removal of the gritting sand is started as soon as possible without endangering pedestrian safety. The City washes and brushes the streets with suction sweepers and loaders to the extent permitted by weather. Equipment and manpower resources are always fully utilised.

Cleaning is started on bus routes and major freeways, which are the main sources of street dust and thus pollution. Urban cores with heavy flow of people and traffic also tend to see high levels of dust. Although the activities are concentrated in these types of areas first, the City does wash all the streets. With more than 1.800 kilometres of streets to clean, the job usually takes some 1.5 months to finish.

You can make a difference

We all can help reduce traffic emissions with our choices. By favouring public transportation, cycling and walking, and shifting towards low-emission electric and hybrid cars, we can reduce transport emissions and improve the quality of city air. At below-freezing temperatures, preheat your car and avoid idling outside homes, day-care centres, schools and offices. This not only reduces emissions, but also saves fuel and contributes to road safety and driving comfort.

In addition to the City, gritting sand is removed by housing co-operatives and private citizens. To minimise the spread of airborne dust, wet the yard or the street and remove the sand by brushing. Finish by spraying with clean water. The use of leaf blowers for grit clearing is prohibited, as they add to dust in the air and resulting side effects.

Even if you did not physically take part in grit removal, you can make sure that your own housing co-operative follows correct procedures. If you see leaf blowers used, contact the property management contractor. If this does not help, get in touch with the Espoo Environment Department. If necessary, the Department can order the property management contractor to stop the use of leaf blowers by imposing a periodic penalty. You can also contribute to the quality of the sand used – washed and sifted materials are the best option.

To reduce wood burning emissions, store firewood properly and use dry wood and correct burning techniques. Do not burn waste or branches in indoor or outdoor fireplaces.

City’s measures to improve air quality in Espoo

The City seeks to reduce air quality impacts through its decision-making and licensing processes. Local dust emissions caused by construction, earthworks and repairs are limited with decisions based on the Environmental Protection Act. The environmental protection regulations contain provisions regarding dust prevention and smoke and odorous emissions. Air quality aspects are also taken into account in city and traffic planning.

Smaller air emission generating facilities in Espoo are monitored by the Environment Department and larger ones by the Uusimaa ELY Centre. The Public Works Department is responsible for street dust suppression and grit removal, and sprays streets under Environment Department’s orders to control adverse health effects associated with dust.