Air pollution

Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

Air quality in Norway has generally improved since the 1990s. However, poor air quality still causes health problems, especially in larger towns.

Norway has national targets for concentrations of particulate matter and NO2. Oslo and Bergen are the only towns that do not meet the national target for NO2, whereas both these and some smaller towns are still missing the target for particulate matter. Photo: Arne Halvorsen, Flickr

Children and unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to road traffic pollution. Photo: Linn Bryhn Jacobsen, Norwegian Environment Agency

Although newer cars pollute less, the volume of traffic has been growing. Road traffic is the most important source of air pollution in Norway. Foto: John Petter Reinertsen

Road traffic dominant source of pollution

Road traffic is the dominant local source of air pollution in Norway, this is due to both exhaust emissions and the widespread use of studded tires from October to April. A car with studded tyres produces up to 100 times more particulate matter than a car with regular tyres.

Wood-burning stoves also make a contribution to the concentration levels of particulate matter, especially on cold days in the winter months.

Other important sources are industrial emissions in Norway, and long-range transport of pollution from traffic and the use of oil and coal in other European countries. The latter also contributes to ground-level ozone and acid rain.

Air pollution can cause serious health problems

Air pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and in particular, worsen the situation for those who are already ill.

Limit values for local air pollution set by the authorities have been exceeded the last winters in several Norwegian towns.

The national target for PM10 is also exceeded in both large and small towns. In several towns the levels of particular matter have declined, while in others, they vary from year to year. 

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Air pollution does not only contribute to health problems in large towns. Deposition of hazardous substances, acid rain and ground level ozone from the European continent may harm animals and vegetation as well. Fish stocks, especially in southern Norway, have been reduced or lost due to acid rain.

National and international measures required

Norway has international obligations to reduce the emissions of harmful gases and particles. In addition, we have set both national targets and legally binding limit values for the concentration of particulate matter and NO2 in outdoor air.

In order to improve air quality, Norway is implementing measures to reduce emissions from road traffic, wood burning and shipping. However, we also rely on emission reductions in other countries to overcome our problems. Norway takes part in international efforts to reduce long-range pollution.