Research: Street dust increases year-round sick leave in Helsinki

Research: Street dust increases year-round sick leave in Helsinki

The dustier the weather in Helsinki, the more often the employees of the City of Helsinki were on sick leave, says the results of a study conducted by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The study assessed the relationship between the number of new sick days per day and the concentration of coarse particles inhaled on the same day and the days before.

It found that as the concentration of particles increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter of breathing air, sick leave increased by 1.8 percent.

"On the worst days of street dust, employees of the City of Helsinki can take several dozen more absences than average," THL Postdoctoral Researcher Timo Lanki said.

The study, funded by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Environmental Agency (HSY), used data on the sickness absence of employees of the City of Helsinki and air quality data from HSY. The study examined nearly two million annual deviations of urban workers in 2002-2017.

Tram drivers suffer the most

According to the results of the study, it suffered particularly from tram drivers in the Helsinki metropolitan area – the number of sick leave in the group increased by 6.8 per cent on days when street dust was high in the air.

Lanki said tram drivers were studied as a professional group because they are more exposed to dust in their work. No other occupational groups were studied separately in the study.

The story continues after the picture.

According to the study, street dust led to an increase in sick leave among tram drivers.Henrietta Hassinen / General

Surprisingly, the study found that although the amount of street dust is particularly high in the spring, no association was found between street dust and increased sick leave during the spring.

Lanki said more research is needed to confirm the issue because there were fewer observation days in the spring than a year ago.

The health effects of street dust are also not yet well known, although it is the most significant source of coarse particles in the urban environment.

Street dust contains many potential contaminants such as quartz, metals, and bacterial endotoxins.

"It is important that research raises people’s awareness of the presence of street dust in the air in all seasons," Lanki said.

Helsinki wants to restrict the use of studded tires

HSY air quality expert Outi Väkevä said the amount of dust in the air can be reduced by favoring friction tires over studded tires and ensuring effective dust management in cities.

"Helsinki has actively developed street washing methods. We also don’t have a shortage of clean water, which means we can do pressure washing on the streets," Concentrated said.

During the spring, the streets are also treated with dilute saline to bind dust.

The new Road Traffic Act, which came into force in the summer, makes it possible to restrict the use of studded tires under a new traffic sign. The City of Helsinki has launched a study to map the parts of the street where the ban on studded tires could be applied.

Source: The Nordic Page


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