Change of seasons brings dust pollution concerns

Winter grit and gravel churned up by tyres forms dust clouds which can be hazardous to health.

File picture of winter gravel scooped up during spring / Credit: News Now Finland

Dust particles formed by tyres crunching over grit and gravel becomes an air pollution hazard at this time of year.

As snow and ice melts, it leaves behind a layer of gravel that was put down on roads over the winter months, and until local authorities clear it up, it presents a health risk.

Elderly people and children as well as those with respiratory illnesses can face particular problems and are being advised to avoid areas where there’s lots of traffic and road dust.

Environmental measuring stations in both Turku and Tampere recorded high instances of air pollution recently; and Leppävaara in Espoo is also a ‘trouble spot’ for poor air quality, as it sits right next to the busy Kehä III Ring Road.

“There’s a lot of dust at the roadsides. Further away from traffic it gets better” says Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HYS, which measures air quality.

The particles in street dust are quite large in size, and to combat them local authorities first remove as much of the winter grit as possible before spraying the roads to dampen down any remaining grit particles.

To check local air quality in the capital city region go to Air Quality and Air Quality Map. You can also use the QR code on more than a dozen monitoring stations in Uusimaa to check their latest information.

Dust particle health risks 

Typical symptoms caused by air pollutants are rhinitis and coughing. People with heart or respiratory diseases may experience symptoms typical to their disease, such as shortness of breath or chest pain. Chilly weather may worsen the symptoms caused by air pollutants.

The Finnish Allergy and Asthma Association has one quick-fix solution for dealing with seasonal dust particles from winter grit – by using a mask.

“The best way to protect yourself is to buy a mask in pharmacies or department stores” says the Association’s Anne Vuorenmaa.