Air quality in Estonia has significantly improved in the last decade
Text Mark Taylor Photo Andrei Chertkov
According to a study conducted by the University of Tartu and the Estonian Environmental Research Centre (EKUK) for the Ministry of the Environment, air quality in Estonia has significantly improved over the course of the last decade. However, fine particle and nitrogen dioxide pollution continues to pose a significant health issue, reducing life expectancy.
The study, which was published on Wednesday, found that the primary source of air pollution continues to be vehicle traffic and local heating. With fine particle and nitrogen dioxide pollution leading to the premature deaths of more than 1000 people in 2020 alone.
These early deaths equated to a reduction in life expectancy of almost 10 months, according to Hans Orru, a professor of environmental health at the University of Tartu.
“All this also has a very substantial socio-economic external cost, i.e. the monetary equivalent of this negative impact on health comes to €666 million per year,” said Orru.
Despite this, the improved air quality has reduced health impacts by nearly 30 per cent over the past decade.
“The improvement in air quality stems from the implementation of less polluting vehicles, though the number of cars on the roads is still constantly rising. While electric cars do not discharge exhaust gases, they still produce road dust. A lot of road dust is created in the cities as a result of the use of studded tires, which release fine particles into the air as they both wear down roads and are themselves worn down,” Orru added.
The effect of traffic is most apparent in the city centre of Tallinn, where life expectancy is reduced by more than a year as a result of traffic pollution.