A Helsinki street. Photo: HSY

Springtime street dust season nears – Street dust already occurring

Many people suffer from elevated levels of street dust in the air. Typical symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, an itchy throat, and itchy and teary eyes. The street dust season usually peaks in March–April, but street dust already occurs in many places in Helsinki as road and street surfaces have dried.

During winter months, dust from various sources is accumulated on roads and streets. As their surfaces dry in spring, the dust is released into the air by traffic and wind. 

“Sunny weather has dried road and street surfaces in the Helsinki metropolitan area and, as a result, street dust can already reach high levels at places,” says air quality expert Anu Kousa of Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY. 

Street dust can cause various symptoms including a runny or stuffy nose, coughing, an itchy throat, and itchy and teary eyes. Street dust is particularly harmful to risk groups such as people with asthma, small children, elderly people, and people with cardiovascular diseases or pulmonary diseases including emphysema. Street dust often worsens the symptoms of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. 

Street dust levels go down when streets are cleaned. When night frost no longer occurs, street dust is abated by wetting streets with a mild saline solution to bind dust. Street dust mainly consists of gritting sand and asphalt particles. Asphalt particles are released into the air by studded tires in particular. 

Read more:

Air quality in Helsinki

Helsinki street cleaning plan on map

Street spring maintenance