Press release 2018-06-26

7 600 are expected to die prematurely each year due to air pollution

A study conducted by IVL Swedish Environmental Institute and Umeå University shows that, although Sweden has one of Europe's lowest levels of air pollution, about 7,600 people die prematurely each year due to exposure to primarily nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Each death corresponds to a loss of approximately eleven years of life. The annual cost to society is estimated to be the equivalent of SEK 56 billion.

The study that is conducted on behalf of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency shows that the population of Sweden is exposed to air pollution to roughly the same extent as indicated by previous surveys, despite the fact that the overall level of pollutants seems to be diminishing.

– The unchanged exposure levels can probably be linked to ongoing urbanization. As more people move to the cities, a greater number are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, says Karin Sjöberg, Head of Air Pollution and Abatement Strategies at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

IVL and Umeå University have studied the Swedish population’s exposure to air pollution and then calculated the adverse health effects and concomitant economic consequences for society. Air pollution is a prime cause of cardiovascular disease and respiratory distress and has both acute and long-term health effects. On days with high levels of air pollution an increased number of people become sick and seek care.

– New studies on the impact on mortality indicate that the local effects of traffic pollution have been underestimated, so we now attribute more deaths to pollution at lower levels of exposure, says Bertil Forsberg, Professor of Environmental Medicine at Umeå University.

Calculations have been made for nitrogen dioxide and particles of 2.5 and 10 microns or less (PM2,5 and PM10). PM2.5 comes mainly from sources in Europe, for example from incineration and industrial emissions. An important source of locally generated particles is road wear due to the use of studded tires. The high levels of nitrogen dioxide are largely due to local traffic emissions, where diesel vehicles are a major problem.

– The study provides further motivation for cities to set up environmental zones to improve the air quality in urban conurbations to reduce negative health effects. Additional measures are also needed in local communities, this in turn will reduce the socio-economic costs of air pollution, says Leif Holmberg, Head of the Air Quality Policy Unit at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Read the report here.

For more information, please contact
Karin Sjöberg, karin.sjoberg@ivl.se, +46 (0)10-788 67 95
Bertil Forsberg, bertil.forsberg@envmed.umu.se, +46 (0)70- 632 44 59
Leif Holmberg, leif.holmberg@naturvardsverket.se, +46 (0)10 – 698 15 96