Particles cost billions

Health damage in Sweden from fine particle pollution costs SEK 26 billion (€ 2.4 billion) every year, according to a recent study prepared for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

    Results from urban air quality modelling show that in 2005 most of the country had rather low urban background concentrations of PM10, compared to the annual mean EU air quality limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3).
   But in some parts of Sweden, mainly in the south, the concentrations were close to the national Swedish environmental objective for 2010 of 20 μg/m3 as an annual mean. About one in ten of the Swedish population were exposed to annual mean concentrations of PM10 above 20 μg/m3, and less than one per cent of Swedes experienced exposure levels of PM10 above 25 μg/m3.
   Regarding PM2.5, air quality modelling indicates that annual mean urban background concentrations in 2005 were of the same order of magnitude as the national Swedish environmental objective for 2010 of 12 μg/m3 in quite large areas of the country. About half of the population was exposed to PM2.5 annual mean concentrations above 10 μg/m3, while less than two per cent experienced levels above 15 μg/m3.

The authors estimate that approximately 3,400 premature deaths per year result from exposure to ambient annual mean PM10 concentrations. Together with some 1,300 – 1,400 new cases of chronic bronchitis, around 1,400 hospital admissions and some 4.5–5 million days of restricted activity (RADs), the societal cost for health impacts was estimated at approximately SEK 26 billion per year (1 SEK = 0.095 euro). The finer PM2.5 particles make up a significant fraction of PM10, and are estimated to be responsible for approximately 90 per cent – or 3,100 – of the total number of annual premature deaths from particles.

Based on the exposure data and doseresponse functions, the socio-economic benefits of introducing and complying with maximum limit values for PM2.5 were calculated. The annual socio-economic benefits of complying with a 20 μg/m3 PM2.5 limit value are estimated at a little more than SEK 7 billion, and would avoid approximately 1000 fatalities. Introducing lower limit values would result in correspondingly higher socio-economic benefits. A limit of 15 μg/m3 would equate to about SEK 15 billion (2,000 avoided fatalities), and a limit of 10 μg/m3 would equate to SEK 21 billion (~3,000 avoided fatalities).

Christer Ågren

Quantification of population exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 in Sweden 2005. IVL Report B1792. Produced by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and Umeå University on behalf of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. See: www.swedishepa.se/en/In-English/Menu/

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