10. tbl. 105. árg. 2019

Air pollution in Iceland and the effects on human health. Review

Loftmengun á Íslandi og áhrif hennar á heilsu manna - Yfirlitsgrein

This review is on air pollution in Iceland and how it affects human health. Air pollution can be described as a condition, where levels of compounds in the atmosphere are so high that it has undesirable or harmful effects on the general public or undesirable effects on the nature, flora and fauna, or man-built structures. Air pollution can have anthropogenic sources such as burning of fossil fuels, or natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, geothermal areas, and resuspension of soil (sandstorms). Air pollution decreases quality of health and shortens the lifespan. The health effects of air pollution can be divided into direct effects on health where, air pollution causes diseases and indirect effects, where air pollution increases symptoms of underlying diseases. Health protection limits are defined for certain ambient air pollutants. They are to act as reference levels for safe for individuals and are put forth to protect long-term human health. Outdoor air quality has been measured on a regular basis in Reykjavik since 1986. For the first years, only PM10 was measured on a single station, but over the years the number of pollutants measured has increased and more measuring stations have been added.

In Iceland air quality is considered very good in general and the ambient pollutant concentrations are usually within defined limits. This is explained by multiple factors such as size of the country and other geographical features as well as weather conditions. Natural disasters can cause increased air pollutant concentrations, as recent volcano eruptions have shown. Several studies have been conducted on the association of air pollution and health of the Icelandic population, but it is essential that this association be examined further to increase the knowledge of adverse health effects of air pollution in Iceland.

Table I   Main pollutant sources in Iceland and weather conditions that may increase the pollutant concentrations.

Table II  Ambient air pollution health limits according to Icelandic regulations.

Figure I  Photograph from Hlöðufell, showing the area south of Langjökull where resuspension of soil can occur. During specific weather conditions the dust from the area can reach the Reykjavik greater area. Photographer:Olafur Arnalds.

Figure II  Aerial photograph of sandstorm from Landeyjarsandur. The photo was taken on April 28. 2007. The resuspended dust can be seen along the south coast, all the way to the river Ölfusá, then over to the Reykjanes peninsula and the capital area all the way across Faxaflói. An obvious mist was seen in the Reykjavík area that day and the highest particulate matter concentration was 353 µg/m3 (30-minute mean). Photograph: Modis, NASA.

Figure III  Streets with soil at a building site in Reykjavík and a tire washer that solves this problem the problem of distribution of soil around the roads of the city.

Figure IV  Map showing the location of air quality measurement stations in Iceland.

Figure V Map showing the location of air quality measurement stations of the southwestern part of Iceland in March 2019.

Figure VI  Coal smoke seen over downtown Reykjavik during the first part of the twentieth century. Photo: Sigurhans Vignir. Reykjavik Museum of Photography.

Figure VII  Year mean concentration of hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter at five different locations around Iceland during 2000-2016.

Þetta vefsvæði byggir á Eplica