The air quality in Norway’s capital city has improved significantly over the last 50 years. However, challenges remain to meet stricter regulations.
Despite a rapid growth in population, Oslo’s air quality has improved over the past five decades.
Why air quality in Oslo matters
As an asthma sufferer, I have appreciated the clean air of Norwegian cities compared to British cities. But the air isn’t perfect and this is especially true during the winter.
Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter over both the short-term and long-term has adverse effects on people with pre-existing asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
But poor air quality isn’t just an issue for asthma sufferers. Studies have shown that there is a causal relationship between a long-term exposure to air pollutants and the development of respiratory illnesses.
Air quality improvements in Oslo
Other air quality improvements have been due to the introduction of fees for studded tires, environmental speed limits and measures to prevent road dust.
In 2016, laws on the limits for airborne particulate matter were made stricter. As a result, Oslo’s city council set ambitious goals below the limits suggested by the health authorities.
Oslo’s biggest pollutants today
Nowadays, road traffic and the use of wood-fired ovens during dry and cold periods of the winter are the main reasons for days that exceed the air quality limits.
Nitrogen dioxide originates predominantly from exhaust fumes, especially from diesel-powered vehicles. The main sources of dust particles are road dust from pavement wear and from wood burning.
Construction and ship-related industries including port activities also contribute, as does pollution carried into Oslo by wind currents.
Measuring Oslo’s air quality
13 observation stations measure the makeup of ambient air in many of Oslo's districts. The closest to the city centre are Hjortnes, Loallmenningen and Sofienbergparken.
The collected data is publicly available at www.luftkvalitet.info/oslo. Historic data is also available.
In February 2018, the City Council adopted a revised action plan for better air quality featuring more than 40 points. Both immediate steps and long-term measures were included.
General measures include the environmental differentiation of vehicles, emission reductions from Oslo port, measures for the transition to electric vans, and measures to reduce emissions from wood burning.
The municipality has a contingency plan for times when high levels of nitrogen dioxide cover large areas of the city. In such situations, emergency measures such as diesel bans can be implemented if needed.