Air pollution spikes during dry weather in spring

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Street cleaning vehicle in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A spike in air pollution is experienced in Estonian cities come spring, with dust and studded tires playing a part. Tallinn Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov said that while dry cleaning of streets is already underway, wet cleaning will commence in April.

Air quality was measured as average in Tallinn, Tartu and Narva on Saturday. It is brought down by high ozone concentration. Fine dust particles from dirty streets and use of studded tires add to the problem.

"The [air pollution] levels were quite high in Tallinn and Tartu yesterday, while that was tied to zero wind, inversion and heating. That said, we see these effects every spring. Dust levels tend to peak in late March and April," said Erik Teinemaa, head of the air quality and climate department of the Environmental Studies Center.

Work to clear the streets of granite gravel has just begun in Tallinn.

"We are mostly working on clearing sidewalks of gravel today and will be moving on to roads soon. Initially, the roads will be cleared of larger debris that has piled up in winter. Wet cleaning will become possible when the daily average temperature raises to five degrees. It usually starts in the beginning or middle of March, depending on the weather," Novikov said.

People are not allowed to use leaf blowers to clear the streets in spring. Novikov says that people should notify the municipal police if they see someone using a leaf blower. "Leaf blowers, especially when used for spring cleaning, are one of the greatest sources of dust."

Professor of virology Andres Merits said that fears according to which airborne dust might carry the coronavirus are baseless. "The chance of catching the virus from dust is negligible. The main way to catch the virus is to find oneself in a crowded place with an infected person," he said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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