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News 11.9.2020

Reducing emissions in Finland would improve health and save money - cost savings can be evaluated with a calculator

This new study showed that by reducing emissions, it is possible to obtain significant economic benefits in Finland. The most effective way is to reduce emissions from road traffic, small-scale wood combustion and machinery, especially in the most densely populated urban areas. The health benefits of reducing emissions can be assessed financially with a calculator developed by Finnish researchers.
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Poor air quality affects the health of the population and, through it, also has economic consequences. A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics assessed the effects of Finnish domestic air pollution emissions on fine particulate matter concentrations, their associated health hazards, and the resulting public health costs.

Computations were made for the whole of Finland, covering the most important air pollutants. The research version of the model has been developed for expert users. It can be used to compute the cost of health damages caused by selected emission reductions.

“The most effective way is to reduce domestic emissions that occur at low altitudes, in urban areas. Such are especially the emissions from road traffic, small-scale wood combustion and various diesel machinery,” Jaakko Kukkonen, a research professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, sums up the results obtained with the calculation model.

Based on the model, it is also possible to quantify the consequences of emission reductions from different emission sources, within different regions.

When the economic consequences of emission reductions can be assessed and the costs of these reduction measures are known, emissions can be reduced in a cost-effective way. It was also found that it is more effective to reduce the emissions of primary particles, i.e., those contained in emissions, than to reduce the emissions of pollutants that will result in secondary particles, via the formation of particles in the atmosphere.

The public health cost calculator is freely available online

The calculator is available online. At the moment, there is only a version in Finnish. The calculator can provide an indicative estimate of the health benefits in monetary terms of the emission reduction measure considered by the user. The calculator is intended primarily for expert use. There is also a version of the calculator developed specifically for municipality experts.

"The calculator can be utilized when planning air pollution protection strategies and comparing the cost-effectiveness of different measures," says Niko Karvosenoja, Group Manager at the Finnish Environment Institute.

Air pollution also has an impact on the climate, environmental pollution and the state of nature. The study now published considered only the most important short-term effect, i.e. the effect of fine particulate matter on human health. Particulate matter is the most significant air pollutant affecting human health.

The model developed by Finnish researchers can be used to estimate the public health costs of air pollution sequentially, from the emissions to atmospheric dispersion, and subsequently, to the health impacts and the economic effects. If the costs of implementing a measure to reduce emissions are known, the model can be used to assess whether the public health benefits of reducing emissions are greater than the price tag of the measure in monetary terms.

Further information:

Research Professor Jaakko Kukkonen, Finnish Meteorological Institute, tel. +358 50 520 2684, jaakko.kukkonen@fmi.fi

Head of Unit Niko Karvosenoja, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 29 525 1264, niko.karvosenoja@ymparisto.fi

Professor Timo Lanki, Department of Health and Welfare (THL), tel. +358 29 524 6326, timo.lanki@thl.fi

A publication written on the study is available free of charge in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Publication reference: Kukkonen, J., Savolahti, M., Palamarchuk, Y., Lanki, T., Nurmi, V., Paunu, V.-V., Kangas, L., Sofiev, M., Karppinen, A. , Maragkidou, A., Tiittanen, P., and Karvosenoja, N .: Modeling of public health costs of fine particulate matter and results for Finland in 2015, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 9371–9391, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-9371-2020, 2020.

The publication is based on the project ‘Damage cost model for air pollution for Finland (IHKU)’, which was implemented in cooperation with the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). SYKE was responsible for coordinating the project. The study was commissioned by the Prime Minister's Office, and a report on it has been published in the Publications of the Government ́s analysis, assessment and research activities Publication Series 26/2018: Air Pollution Damage Cost Model for Finland (IHKU), project final report, in Finnish with English abstract.

More information on the air pollution damage cost model is available on the Finnish Environment Institute's website.

Science-newsEmissionsAir qualityHealth