Air quality in Sweden

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Sweden

LAST UPDATE (local time)

LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Sweden
Most polluted city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Boo, Stockholm

97

2 Lilla Essingen, Stockholm

76

3 Linköping, Östergötlands län

71

4 Kalmar, Kalmar

65

5 Växjö, Kronobergs län

61

6 Norrköping, Östergötlands län

59

7 Stockholm, Stockholm

54

8 Norr Malma, Stockholm

53

9 Visby, Gotland

53

10 Onsala, Hallands län

42

(local time)

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LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Sweden
Cleanest city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Perstorp, Skåne län

0

2 Falun, Dalarnas län

1

3 Moelndal, Västra Götalands län

3

4 Sundbyberg, Stockholm

3

5 Grondal, Stockholm

6

6 Gavle, Gaevleborg

8

7 Ludvika, Dalarnas län

12

8 Sollentuna, Stockholm

14

9 Björklinge, Uppsala län

15

10 Klaverod, Skane

19

(local time)

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Good
Moderate
Unhealthy for sensitive groups
Unhealthy
Very unhealthy
Hazardous
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OVERVIEW

How polluted is Sweden?

The national flag of USA

2020 Air quality average

Human face indicating AQI level

Good

2020 average US AQI

21

!

PM2.5

x0

PM2.5 concentration in Sweden air is currently 0 times above WHO exposure recommendation

2020  Sweden cleanest city Umeå , Västerbottens län

18

2020  Sweden most polluted city Malmö , Skåne län

40

2020 aqi country ranking

How does Sweden rank globally in air pollution?

103/ 106 countries ranked in 2020

Which country had the worst air quality in 2020?

#COUNTRYPopulationAVG. US AQI
1The national flag of USABangladesh164'689'383

162

2The national flag of USAPakistan220'892'331

153

3The national flag of USAIndia1'380'004'385

141

4The national flag of USAMongolia3'278'292

128

5The national flag of USAAfghanistan38'928'341

128

6The national flag of USAOman5'106'622

123

7The national flag of USAQatar2'881'060

123

8The national flag of USAKyrgyzstan6'524'191

121

9The national flag of USAIndonesia273'523'621

114

10The national flag of USABosnia Herzegovina3'280'815

113

103The national flag of USASweden10'099'270

21

SEE DETAIL

How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Sweden

What is the air quality forecast for Sweden?

Sweden is officially known as the Kingdom of Sweden and is a Nordic country situatedin northern Europe. With a land area of 450,295 square kilometres, it is thelargest country in northern Europe. Its capital city of Stockholm has apopulation of approximately 10.5 million people at the end of 2020.

In 2019 Sweden enjoyed high-quality air and easily achieved the World HealthOrganisation’s (WHO) target figure of 10 µg/m³ with their measurement of 6.1 µg/m³.The target figure was achieved for 11 months of the year with just Aprilshowing higher levels at 11.3 µg/m³. Even though, this can still be classifiedas “Good” with a figure from 10 to 12 µg/m³. Looking back over their historicalfigures, the quality of air in Sweden remains roughly the same. In 2017 theaverage was 4.4 µg/m³ and in 2018 it was 6.6 µg/m³.

What is the current state of air pollution in Sweden?

Every year, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency compiles data on Sweden'semissions of air pollutants. Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2),nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC)s,particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and heavy metals have fallen sharply since1990, but the rate of decline has slowed down in recent years.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) have more than halved since 1990. Emissionswere approximately 128,000 tonnes in 2019 and between 2018 and 2019, emissionsdecreased by 7 per cent. The largest sources of emissions of nitrogen oxidesare domestic transport, industry and machinery. Sweden is also affected byemissions from international shipping, but it is not included in the statisticson national emissions.

Overall, total emissions have decreased in nearly all sectors. Mainly in the transportsector, despite the fact that emissions between 2011 and 2016 saw increasedemissions of NOx from passenger cars, but emissions have decreasedsince 2016. Between 2018 and 2019, emissions from passenger cars decreased by 8per cent. The overall reduction in the transport sector is mainly due tocatalytic exhaust purification in heavy trucks.

Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), have more than halved since1990 and are continuing to decrease. In 2019, emissions were approximately 134thousand tonnes, which is a decrease of 2 per cent since 2018. The main sourcesof emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds are products containingsolvents, industry, in particular refineries, and agriculture.

Road traffic emissions of NMVOCs had previously been large but have decreased since1990 and continue to decrease continuously due to stricter emissionrequirements. Carbon monoxide (CO) emissions have also decreased since the1990s because of the mandatory fitting of catalytic converters to the exhaust system of vehicles.

What are the main causes of air pollution in Sweden?

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions are mainly produced by industry, whichaccounts for 77 per cent of the total national emissions. Emissions of sulphurdioxide come mainly from industrial processes. However, emissions fromcombustion are steadily declining, as fuels with a high sulphur content arebeing replaced by low-sulphur fuels and biofuels.

The main source of ammonia (NH3) emissions comes from animal waste inthe form of manure. In 2019, the total emissions of ammonia, (NH3)were estimated to be approximately 53 thousand tonnes, which corresponds to adecrease of 11 per cent compared with 1990. Emissions between 2018 and 2019have gone down by approximately 0.2 kilotons which correspond to a reduction ofaround 0.4 per cent. The agricultural sector, where storage and use of manure,in particular, is a major source of emissions, accounts for 88 per cent oftotal emissions in 2019. The reduction in emissions since 1990 is mainly due tothe fact that the number of animals in agriculture has decreased and thus theemissions from manure management have also decreased. An increase in imports ofdairy and meat products means that an increasing share of emissions instead takes place in other countries.

Another major source of pollution comes in the form of the microscopic particles ofPM2.5 and the slightly larger ones, PM10. Emissions of small particles, PM2.5,were just over 18,000 tonnes in 2019, which is a decrease of 61 per cent since1990. The biggest source of emissions of PM2.5 is from the heating of homes andpremises through the burning of wood. Other major sources are domestictransport and industry. The largest source of road traffic's emissions ofparticles into the air comes from the wear and tear of roads, the abrasion of tyresand vehicle brakes. These emissions have marginally increased by just over 30per cent since 1990 when the total volume of traffic increased. At the sametime, emissions of particles from fuel use in road traffic decreased overallsince 1990. This was due to higher quality fuel and stricter emission requirements.

What can be done to improve air quality in Sweden?

The tax on emissions of nitrogen oxides, the so-called nitrous oxide (NOx)tax, has contributed to the reduction of emissions from electricity and heat production and industrial combustion.

The possible health effects of air pollution are monitored by the Swedish EnvironmentalProtection Agency. They monitor, amongst other things, the number of people whoare exposed to high levels of particles and nitrogen dioxide and for whichlevels they are exposed to carcinogens in urban air. Various studies are alsoconducted on the relationship between air pollution and various ailments and health effects.

Particulate emissions from road traffic, machinery and small-scale wood burning need to bereduced, as well as emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatileorganic compounds (VOC) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone(O3). The introduction of fuel and purification equipment requirements,as well as a further reduction in the use of studded tires, could contribute toa positive improvement of air quality in many urban areas.

Which city in Sweden had the highest levels of air pollution?

In certain areas of Sweden, the air quality for some polluting substances hasimproved, whilst others remain unchanged. But the levels are still high enough tobe harmful to human health. The limit value for harmful particles in the airmeasuring 10 micrometres in diameter, PM10, was exceeded in the three municipalitiesof Sundsvall, Södertälje and Visby. This means that Sweden may have to pay a penalty fee to the EU.

When considering the concentrations of fine particulate matter, Visby exceeded thelimit for 46 days in 2017. This is mainly due to the lime gravel that is spreadover the roads in the winter months to provide traction over the icy surface. Sundsvallis another city where the limit value was exceeded for 40 days last year. Thisis due to the fact that it is located between two tall mountains and thereforethe airflow does not carry away the polluted air. It also means that theproblems with inversion are greater than in many other places. Södertäljemunicipality exceeded the limit value for 37 days in 2018. The reason for thisis that a canal bisects the urban area and has limited ways of crossing it.This leads to a concentration of vehicle emitted particles close to the bridges.It is estimated that over 38,000 vehicles cross the canal on a daily basis.Because of the winter weather, many cars use studded tyres for extra tractionbut these studs considerably add to the large amount of road dust suspended in the air.

Stockholm exceeded the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit value for 29 days, thesehigh levels were due to road traffic, mainly emissions from diesel vehicles.The total traffic volume on the Essingeleden in 2018 increased by three per centwhen compared to previous years. The proportion of heavy traffic and queuingare other factors that have a major impact on nitrogen dioxide emissions,something that has been attempted to address by the introduction of a congestiontax. Additionally, various environmental zones have already been introducedwith the aim of reducing heavy traffic. In January, Hornsgatan in Södermalmwill be designated as a class 2 environmental zone, which means that only lightvehicles with emission class "Euro 5" or newer may enter. This approximatelycorresponds to vehicles manufactured from 2011 onwards.

Gothenburg’s problem with high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is mainly due tothe busy traffic routes that run through the central parts of the city. Inaddition, Gothenburg has the largest port in Scandinavia so vehicles travellingto and from the port go through the low-lying central areas of the city, whichresults in large emissions of nitrogen dioxide from their diesel engines. Thecity is also surrounded by hills and ridges, which creates conditions forstagnant air. When the air remains still, the air pollutants are not ventedaway but accumulate, which gives high levels. In Gothenburg, the limit value was exceeded for 21 days.

What does the future hold with regards to air quality in Sweden?

Sweden has on average lower amounts of small particles in the air than what the WorldHealth Organisation (WHO) recommends, and internationally Swedes have a lowrisk of becoming ill from poor quality air, but even here at home thousands ofpeople die every year as a result of pollution.

Stockholm residents, for example, live on average six months shorter due to air pollution.Negligible if you compare with heavy smoking which shortens life by severalyears, but comparable with passive smoking.

Each local authority is required to check that the environmental quality standards(EQS) for outdoor air are complied with within their locality. The controlshall take place through measurement, model calculation or so-called objectiveestimation, and the authorities may carry out the control either on their own orin collaboration with other municipalities.

What are the effects on health by breathing Sweden’s poor quality air?

Air pollution affects both human health and the environment. It can make peoplesick and shorten life expectancy. It also contributes to plant damage,corrosion, eutrophication, acidification and climate change, especially whenhigh levels occur near a source of pollution or in a densely populated area.

There are a variety of activities in society that contribute to air pollution. Theyare formed, amongst other things, during combustion, emissions in industries or from quarrying.

The most common air pollutants consist of nitrogen and sulphur oxides, ground-levelozone and suspended particles of various sizes and compositions. Other majorair pollutants are hydrocarbons, such as benzene and polycyclic aromatichydrocarbons (PAHs), as well as carbon monoxide and heavy metals.

Air pollution causes, among other things, cardiovascular disease and respiratorydiseases. For small particles, no safe levels have been found and therefore oneshould strive for as low emissions as possible.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. Children are very active and arealways moving. They have a faster rate of breathing yet their lungs aresmaller. This means that relatively more air pollutants are absorbed in achild's airways and lungs when compared to adults. Children's lungs, brains andinternal organs grow rapidly during the first few years of life, which makesthem extra sensitive to health effects. Children's immune systems are alsodeveloping and therefore children often suffer from infections in therespiratory tract. In addition, children are often more sensitive topollutants, than adults and react differently when they stay in polluted air environments.

Air pollution often aggravates respiratory diseases. For example, exposure totraffic pollutants can be linked to symptoms and hospitalisation in childrenwith asthma. No lower limit for impact has been observed and therefore it isbeneficial to have as little pollution as possible.

When children are exposed to air pollution for a long time, the development of thelungs can be affected in a way that the lungs grow worse and that their functionis affected. The development of a baby's lungs is also important for healthlater in life. It is therefore important that the air environment as a whole isgood where children are growing up. Very often schools are located in citycentres near busy roads which is possibly the worst place to find pollution.

Air pollution can affect children even beforebirth by causing both low birth weight and premature births. Protecting thehealth of mothers is therefore protecting the health of their unborn children.

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