The Reykjavík capital area has experienced high levels of air pollution this year, RÚV reports. On Monday, levels of fine particulate pollution were five times higher than what is considered safe. Particulate air pollution has exceeded safe limits on at least six days since the beginning of the year, prompting authorities to warn Reykjavík residents against engaging in outdoor activities.
“It is really primarily traffic as a whole which causes this,” Meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson said on RÚV morning radio today. “We see the particulate matter measurements shoot up in the mornings and late afternoons. And then they go way down at night. Very little particulate pollution is measured at night so it follows fluctuations in traffic.”
Many capital area drivers use spiked tires in the winter. When roads are dry, such as over the past several weeks, the tires tear up asphalt and contribute to particulate pollution. Einar encourages drivers to forego spiked tires earlier in the year, as the likelihood of icy conditions decreases greatly in March.
The weather influences air pollution levels as well: while still and dry conditions correspond with higher levels of hazardous pollution, rain and wind help to clear the air. Larger, heavier vehicles raise more particulate matter into the air, while older cars and those that run on diesel produce more soot than newer models and those which run on gasoline. Einar adds that sand used on roads throughout the winter to increase traction on snow and ice should also be cleaned better in the spring.
“The main thing about this is that this is pollution which is a health hazard and it is entirely ours,” Einar says. “It is we ourselves who produce it, that is to say car traffic produces it here in the capital area.”
Kristín Lóa Ólafsdóttir, a representative of the Reykjavík Public Health Authority, agrees. “It’s time to get to work,” she stated. “Urge people to use public transport and avoid the use of spiked tires in the city.”