About the air

Aerial pollutants are substances generated through human activities or gaseous or particle-like agents of natural origin causing hazardous impacts on the environment.

The major aerial pollutants in Finland’s cities include particles, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. In certain industrial areas also odorous sulphur compounds are still causing problems for the air quality. Aerial pollutants have effects both on human health and on nature. In the graphs, abbreviations such as PM10 or NO2 refer to the pollutants. The quality of ambient air is regulated through limit values, target values and warning thresholds. EU’s limit values define the highest acceptable concentrations of aerial pollutants. The national reference values guide planning and are targets both in the short and long term.

Health hazards caused by aerial pollutants are resulting from exposure to harmful substances in the air. The higher the exposure is the higher the concentrations in the air and the longer an individual breathes in polluted air.

In particular, people living and moving about in the city centres and heavily trafficked areas are exposed to air pollutants. Also smoke from wood burning in single-family housing areas may significantly increase the exposure to air pollution. A large part of gaseous and particle-like harmful substances of outside air intrudes into the building interiors.

In Finland, concentrations of air pollution do not cause any significant health hazards for the majority of people. However, the sensitivity levels of different individuals towards air pollution vary. The so called sensitive population groups develop symptoms and their ability to function is already affected by much lower concentration levels of aerial pollution than that of the healthy ones. Read more about health hazards caused by aerial pollution.

Sensitive population groups include:
•asthmatic individuals of all ages
•elderly people suffering from coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease