Over the past 20 years Sweden and Europe have done much to improve air quality. In particular, nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions have diminished significantly, and this has averted a number of environmental and health problems.

But despite successes in reducing nitrogen and sulphur dioxide emissions, the air in Swedish cities has not become appreciably better. Levels of particulate matter and ground-level ozone — the air pollutants that cause most health problems in Sweden — are relatively unchanged. As a result more than 5 000 people per year are estimated to die prematurely because of air pollution. In the rest of Europe the death toll is as much as 400,000 annually.

Air pollution also damages the environment. Nitrogen and sulphur oxides contribute to eutrophication and acidification. Ground-level ozone causes damage to vegetation and crops. Pollutants like soot and ozone also have a detrimental impact on climate. In addition, animals and vegetation are adversely affected by carcinogenic hydrocarbons and toxic heavy metals.

Long-range air pollution

Much of the air pollution that falls over Sweden comes from emissions sources in other countries. If we are to successfully combat both long distance and local air pollution we must continue to implement forceful measures both in Sweden and in neighbouring countries.

For almost 50 years IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has been a key player when it comes to national and international air quality issues. Through the years we have built up unique expertise ranging from the release and dispersion of air pollutants to environmental impacts and response strategies. We have a long involvement with the UN Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, CLRTAP, and an extensive portfolio of international and interdisciplinary research projects.

Reduce both air pollution and greenhouse gases

The major challenge ahead will be to further reduce air pollutants and at the same time make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal is to help ensure that decisions and priorities in these areas rest on a good scientific basis and are able to create the conditions required for effective action.