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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Estonia

Air pollution (Estonia)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Air pollution is a transboundary, multi-pollutant, multi-effect environmental problem.

It does not recognise political boundaries. The wind can transfer polluting substances far from their sources of emission. There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects: acid rain, the greenhouse effect, stratospheric ozone depletion, etc. Each of these problems can seriously influence human health and the environment.

In spite of the fact that air pollution by sulphur and nitrogen compounds in Estonia has decreased recently, no significant reduction in corrosion on the sample plates displayed at the Lahemaa background monitoring station has been recorded. Quite the opposite has been observed: compared with 1997-1998, the corrosion loss of zinc in 2001-2002 increased both in Estonia and elsewhere in Europe. See http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1074817/Roots,+Ott.+Materials+corrosion+and+air+pollution.pdf

http://www.corr-institute.se/MULTI-ASSESS/web/page.aspx?pageid=59189

The level of pollution with particulate matter (PM10) in Tallinn’s city centre has increased in comparison with earlier years. The number of exceedances of PM10 limit values is growing constantly.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

 

Link to Environmental Indicators: http://www.keskkonnainfo.ee/index.php?lan=EN&sid=766&tid=693&l1=2

Link to Air Quality Management System (in Estonian):  http://mail.klab.ee/seire/airviro/

 

·        Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

 

The level of ambient air pollution by nitrogen dioxide (NO2), measured at urban monitoring stations, shows a decreasing trend during recent years (Figure 1) and is below the EU’s annual limit value. The main reason is the introduction of catalytic converters in passenger cars.

Pollution levels at background stations have hardly varied in recent years (Figure 2) and are also below the annual limit value.

Figure 1. NO2 annual mean concentrations, urban stations

Figure 1. NO2 annual mean concentrations, urban stations

Figure 2. NO2 annual mean concentrations, background stations

Figure 2. NO2 annual mean concentrations, background stations

 

·        Ozone (O3)

 

Ground-level ozone (O3) concentrations at background stations are higher than at urban stations. Concentrations at background stations have decreased slightly in recent years (Figure 3). The number of exceedances of the EU’s 8-hour target value for the protection of human health (120 µg/m3) also has decreased considerably in recent years. The largest number of exceedances, 11, in 2008 was at the Lahemaa background monitoring station (Figure 4).

 

Figure 3. O3 annual mean concentrations, background stationsFigure 4. Number of exceedance of 8h target value O3 limit value, background stations

          Figure 3. O3 annual mean concentrations,                               Figure 4. Number of exceedance of 8h target

                      background stations                                                    value O3 limit value, background stations

 

·        Particulate Matter (PM10)

 

Air can be contaminated by a range of different particles such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Many of these can harm our health, especially very small particles that can enter deep into the lungs.

 

Air pollution by particles is the main problem in Tallinn, especially in the centre, where there has been considerable growth in annual mean concentrations of PM10 and in the number of exceedances of the limit value set for the protection of human health, 50 µg/m3 daily mean, (Figure 5). There were 63 exceedances at the Liivalaia monitoring station in 2008 (Figure 6).  The main sources of the PM10 emissions in the centre of Tallinn are fuel burning in vehicle engines, especially diesel; road abrasion; automobile tyre and brake wear and also some construction works.

 

The analysis in Health impact assessment of particulate pollution in Tallinn using fine spatial resolution and modelling techniques (Orru et al., 2009; http://www.ehjournal.net/ content/8/1/7) has shown that all the citizens of Tallinn are affected by poor air quality. Even though the levels of particulates are not high, negative health effects still occur. The analysis suggests that locally-emitted air pollution in the city could be resulting, each year, in 296 premature deaths, corresponding to 3 859 years of life lost (YLL), and 275 short-term hospital admissions. Air pollution  is estimated to reduce the life expectancy of Tallinn residents by an average of 7.7 months – the corresponding figure for all EU citizens is 8.6 months. This makes particle pollution a significant environmental health issue in Tallinn.

 

Similar research has been done for four other cities of Estonia: Tartu, Kohtla-Järve, Narva and Pärnu. On average the results suggest 166 premature deaths each year, corresponding to 2 200 YLL and an average loss of about 8 months of life expectancy. http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1096278/++++%D5husaaste_tervisem%F5ju_hinnang_TKJNP.pdf (in Estonian only)

Figure 5. PM10 annual mean concentration, urban stations

Figure 5. PM10 annual mean concentration, urban stations

 

Figure 6. S concentration (mgS/l), deposition (mg/m2) and precipitation (mm), Vilsandi background station

Figure 6. Number of exceedance of PM10 limit value, urban stations

 

·        Precipitation chemistry

The mean annual concentrations and depositions of sulphate and nitrate decreased significantly between 1995 and 1996 due to reductions of acidifying pollutants.

Recent results of measurements of the mean annual concentrations and depositions of sulphate (Figure 6) and nitrate (Figure 7) in precipitation at the Vilsandi background monitoring station show some decreases or stable levels.

Figure 7. NO3/N concentration (mgS/l), deposition (mg/m2) and precipitation (mm), Vilsandi background station

Figure 7. S concentration (mgS/l), deposition (mg/m2) and precipitation (mm), Vilsandi background station

 

Figure 8. NO3/N concentration (mgS/l), deposition (mg/m2) and precipitation (mm), Vilsandi background station

Figure 8. NO3/N concentration (mgS/l), deposition (mg/m2) and precipitation (mm), Vilsandi background station

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Link to Environmental Indicators: http://www.keskkonnainfo.ee/index.php?lan=EN&sid=24&tid=23&l2=22&l1=2#vaav

 

·        Acidifying and eutrophying substances

 

The main sources of emissions of acidifying pollutants are stationary combustion plants, 71 %; mobile sources, 12 %; and agriculture, 16 %. During the period 1990-2008 emissions of acidifying pollutants decreased by 69.4 % – sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 74.1 %, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 53.4 % and ammonia (NH3) by 60.8 % (Figure 8). The main reasons for the reductions were restructuring of the economy and a decline in energy production. Possibilities for exporting electricity also decreased significantly. While the use of local fuels – wood, wood-waste and oil shale – and natural gas has been increasing steadily since 1993, the share of heavy fuel oil in the energy balance has reduced significantly. Future decreases of emissions are directly dependent on the measures implemented in power plants operating on oil shale and in the transport sector.

Figure 9. Emission of acidifying substances in 1990-2008 and projection

Figure 9. Emission of acidifying substances in 1990-2008 and projection

 

·        Tropospheric ozone precursors

 

The main sources of tropospheric ozone precursor emissions in 2008 were non-industrial combustion – about 30 % due to wood and wood-waste combustion in households, 31 % from mobile sources and 20 % from the energy industry

In the period 1990-2008 emissions of these substances decreased by about 50 % (Figure 9) due to reductions in NOx and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions from mobile sources. The consumption of gasoline fell by 34 % during this period, partly because the share of old cars was reduced considerably. The increasing number of cars with catalysers also played a role. The manufacture of chemical products fell between 1990 and 2005, which reduced emissions of volatile compounds.

Figure 10. Emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors in 1990-2007 and emission projection

Figure 10. Emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors in 1990-2007 and emission projection

 

·        Particulate matter

 

The main sources of primary PM10 emissions in Estonia are non-industrial combustion: 50% from wood and wood-waste combustion in households, 26% from combustion for energy production (mainly oil shale power plants) and 15% from manufacturing industries.

The emissions of particulates fell by 32.3 % between 2000 and 2008 mainly as a result of measures on power plants and decreasing energy production. The increase in particulate emissions in 2007 was due to growth of energy production in oil shale power stations (Figure 10).

Figure 11. Emissions of primary PM10 and PM2.5 in 2000-2008 and projections

Figure 11. Emissions of primary PM10 and PM2.5 in 2000-2008 and projections

                                                                                               

·        Heavy metal emissions

 

Since 2000 the main source of lead emissions in Estonia – 91 % – has been power stations burning oil shale with road transport contributing only 4 % and non-industrial combustion 2 %. Emissions of lead fell by 74 % during the period 1990-2008 as a result of the introduction of new technologies in power stations and cement factories, decreasing energy production, and ending the use of leaded petrol since 2000.

The energy sector contributes about 94 % of total mercury emissions and 90 % of cadmium emissions. Decreases in emissions of these metals are resulting from changes in power stations.

 

·        Persistent organic pollutants

 

The main polluters of ambient air with dioxins in 2008 were the energy industry – 45 %; non-industrial combustion, mainly wood and wood-waste combustion in households, 33%; combustion in manufacturing industry, 12%; and waste incineration, 9 %. Emissions of dioxins fell by 11 % between 2000 and 2008.

The total PAH emissions include four substances: benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(b)fluoranthene and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene. The main source of PAH emissions, contributing 85 %, is non-industrial combustion. Emissions increased by 13 % between 1990 and 2008 mainly because of the amount of wood and wood-waste burned in households (Figure 11).

Figure 12. PAH emissions in 1990-2008 and projections

Figure 12. PAH emissions in 1990-2008 and projections

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The draft National program on reduction of pollutants emissions from the point and mobile sources by 2015 has established emission projections for the NEC Directive substances and other pollutants for 2010 and 2015:

 

Pollutant

National emissions
ceiling for 2010 (Gg)

Emission projection
2010

Emission projection
2015

SO2

100

80.4

43.4

NOx

60

38.6

36.2

NMVOC

49

40.7

41.7

NH3

29

8.8

7.3

TSP

NA*

25.5

23.3

PM1-

NA

17.3

16.5

PM2.5

NA

14.8

14.6

 

Pollutant

National emissions
ceiling for 2010

Emission projection
2010

Emission projection
2015

Pb, Mg

NA

39.1

34.6

Cd, Mg

NA

0.6

0.5

Hg, Mg

NA

0.6

0.5

Dioxin, g I-TEQ

NA

3.5

3.46

PAHs, Mg

NA

12.1

12.1

 * Not available

 

The programme sets emission reduction targets for each type of pollutant, as a measure of achievement of the environmental objectives. http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=375957/nec_final020107.pdf

 

The Ministry of the Environment currently plans to develop emission projections for 2020.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The Riigikogu approved the Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030 on 14 February 2007.

http://www.envir.ee/orb.aw/class=file/action=preview/id=1104361/inglisekeelneStrateegia.pdf

The Strategy 2030 aims to define long-term development trends for maintaining a good status of the natural environment, while keeping in mind the links between the environment, economic and social spheres and their impacts on the natural environment and people.

The main objectives and measures in the area of climate change mitigation and quality of ambient air are:

 

Energy and energy consumption

  • by 2015 the share of oil shale in the production of electricity should be less than 90 %;
  • by 2015 the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources and consumed in Estonia should increase to at least 8 %;
  • by 2020 the share of electricity produced in combined heat and power plants and consumed in Estonia should increase to at least 20 %;
  • energy consumption per unit of GDP in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP): primary energy consumption should remain at the 2003 level (20.0 TJ per PPP) until 2010:
  • losses in the distribution network should fall to 8 % by 2009 and remain at this level at least until 2015.

 

Transport

  • elaboration and implementation of a system of regulations and benefits for development of public transport and ‘soft’ traffic;
  • long-term planning of the development of sustainable and integrated transport, including formulating a regional policy that contributes to the reduction of commuting and road transport, and increasing the functions of settlements and reducing commuting through habitation plans;
  • increasing society’s awareness and guiding its attitude towards sustainable transport and city planning, including increasing the attractiveness of sustainable modes of transport;
  • elaboration of regulations for reducing energy consumption in transport and reducing the use of fossil fuels.

 

The environment, health and quality of life

  • development of a monitoring and information system for outdoor environmental factors that affect health, and publication of data;
  • development of a system for assessment and control of health hazards, to reduce and mitigate long-term environment-related health risks;
  • formulation of regulations, instructions and action plans for mitigation of health risks in the urban environment;
  • increasing the knowledge of specialists and people about the health risks posed by the outdoor environment.

 

Various national programmes such as the Long Term Public Fuel and Energy Sector Development Plan until 2015 (http://www.mkm.ee/index.php?id=334262) and the Transport Development Plan (http://www.mkm.ee/index.php?id=338986) provide measures to reduce impacts on human health and ecosystems.

The draft Action Plan for the improvement of Tallinn city ambient air quality contains various measures for the reduction of particulate emissions, which are a serious source of air pollution in Tallinn.

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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