Health impacts of PM2.5 originating from residential wood combustion in four nordic cities

Hans Orru*, Henrik Olstrup, Jaakko Kukkonen, Susana López-Aparicio, David Segersson, Camilla Geels, Tanel Tamm, Kari Riikonen, Androniki Maragkidou, Torben Sigsgaard, Jørgen Brandt, Henrik Grythe, Bertil Forsberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Residential wood combustion (RWC) is one of the largest sources of fine particles (PM2.5) in the Nordic cities. The current study aims to calculate the related health effects in four studied city areas in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark.

METHODS: Health impact assessment (HIA) was employed as the methodology to quantify the health burden. Firstly, the RWC induced annual average PM2.5 concentrations from local sources were estimated with air pollution dispersion modelling. Secondly, the baseline mortality rates were retrieved from the national health registers. Thirdly, the concentration-response function from a previous epidemiological study was applied. For the health impact calculations, the WHO-developed tool AirQ + was used.

RESULTS: Amongst the studied city areas, the local RWC induced PM2.5 concentration was lowest in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (population-weighted annual average concentration 0.46 µg m- 3) and highest in Oslo (2.77 µg m- 3). Each year, particulate matter attributed to RWC caused around 19 premature deaths in Umeå (95% CI: 8-29), 85 in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (95% CI: 35-129), 78 in Copenhagen (95% CI: 33-118), and 232 premature deaths in Oslo (95% CI: 97-346). The average loss of life years per premature death case was approximately ten years; however, in the whole population, this reflects on average a decrease in life expectancy by 0.25 (0.10-0.36) years. In terms of the relative contributions in cities, life expectancy will be decreased by 0.10 (95% CI: 0.05-0.16), 0.18 (95% CI: 0.07-0.28), 0.22 (95% CI: 0.09-0.33) and 0.63 (95% CI: 0.26-0.96) years in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Umeå, Copenhagen and Oslo respectively. The number of years of life lost was lowest in Umeå (172, 95% CI: 71-260) and highest in Oslo (2458, 95% CI: 1033-3669).

CONCLUSIONS: All four Nordic city areas have a substantial amount of domestic heating, and RWC is one of the most significant sources of PM2.5. This implicates a substantial predicted impact on public health in terms of premature mortality. Thus, several public health measures are needed to reduce the RWC emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1286
JournalBMC Public Health
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022


  • Air pollution
  • Life expectancy
  • Northern Europe
  • Premature death
  • Wood smoke


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