High levels of dangerous dust in Skellefteå center

Currently, the city center of Skellefteå has high levels of hazardous dust, far above the allowed limit. The probable cause is a combination of dry, bare roads and studded tires that stir up dangerous small particles.

Skellefteå's air has been at its worst on the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's air quality index during Thursday morning.

Skellefteå's air has been at its worst on the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's air quality index during Thursday morning.

Foto: Naturvårdsverket

Skellefteå2023-04-06 13:53

Readers have reached out to Norran about high levels of so-called PM10 particles in Skellefteå. On Wednesday, the levels for PM10 were at a daily average of 100, more than double the recommended value, and individual peaks were much higher. At 8 a.m. on Thursday, for example, the value was 475.

– Spring is the time when there are the most particles in the air. That's when the asphalt starts to reappear, and studded tires stir up the dangerous dust. That's obviously not good," says Ulla Bro, environmental inspector at Skellefteå Municipality.

According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's five-level air quality index, the air in Skellefteå city center was at level five on Thursday morning, the highest level, which means "very unhealthy."

Should people avoid going out in the city center when it looks like this?

– No, of course, people should be able to go out. However, it depends how sensitive one is. For those with asthma or respiratory problems, it may be inappropriate. The important thing is to consider how much time one spends in the environment. If you live right next to the E4, for example, you should be careful," says Bro.

The PM10 value has been at level five during Thursday, which means "very unhealthy".

Norran has previously reported on the high levels of dangerous particles in Skellefteå city center. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has demanded an action plan, which the municipality is currently working on and is set to present by the end of the year.

– People tend to think it's mostly big cities that have bad air, but that's not really true. Norrland municipalities stand out in a negative way, says Bro.

–The latest comparison from 2021 shows that Skellefteå and Östersund were the cities that exceeded the allowed limit for PM10. Umeå also exceeded the nitrogen dioxide limit.

A reader also wonders if a major fire in Vaasa, Finland, could have affected the air quality in Skellefteå. Johan Genberg Safont, from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, thinks it unlikely.

– If that were the case, the levels of even smaller particles, PM2.5, should differ from the larger PM10. As it stands now, they seem to follow each other, indicating that it is the same source," says Genberg Safont. 

– I also looked at our soot measurements that we have, located in Umeå among other places, and they do not indicate any signal from the fire.

Fact box

PM2.5 and PM10 are two widely used metrics to measure urban air particles. They represent the concentration of particles with diameters smaller than 2.5 and 10 micrometers (µm), respectively. These tiny particles, when inhaled, can cause negative health impacts in both the short and long term by affecting the respiratory system.

Source: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency