"Thousands" die from Norwegian air pollution

Agency blames particulates for up to 2,000 deaths annually, costing up to euros 3.4bn

Air pollution by particulates is costing Norway up to NKr28bn (euros 3.4bn) and causing thousands of deaths per year, according to a report published yesterday by the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT). The scale of estimated health effects is similar to that suggested in a British survey (ENDS Daily 14 January 1998) but much larger than estimated last year in France (ENDS Daily 20 April 1999).

The SFT report is based on a Statistics Norway (SSB) study using World Health Organisation criteria. Airborne particulates are a long-standing concern in Norway, where severe winter conditions, wood-fired heating and widespread use of studded winter tyres - as well as imports from neighbouring countries - are thought to cause unacceptably high concentrations.

Those fatally affected die on average seven years prematurely, SFT says, putting the national total deaths at up to 2,000. Social costs nation-wide, mainly lost working days and hospital treatment, total a minimum of NKr3bn and a maximum of NKr28bn annually,

Another factor is diesel engines. In Oslo, costs attributable to this source are reckoned at NKr3-10 per litre of fuel. By comparison, the report notes, total taxes on diesel exclusive of VAT are about NKr4 per litre.

Annual costs attributable to the use of studded tyres in Oslo are calculated as NOK 2500-7000 per car. A controversial surcharge on their use introduced this winter is NOK 1000 per season.

By coincidence, the report was published on the same day that the declaration of a "severe pollution alert", the first this year, led to speed restrictions on major roads in and around Oslo. The result, according to the local edition of the national newspaper Aftenposten, was long traffic queues and more pollution from increased exhaust fumes.

Follow Up:
SFT, tel: +47 22 57 34 00; SSB, tel: +47 22 86 49 54. See also SFT press release, and a summary of "Health Effects and Socio-Economic Costs of Air Pollution.

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