Icy streets and sidewalks during the winter prompted city maintenance crews to strew them with lots of gravel and sand so they wouldn’t be so slippery. That, combined with a lack of rain in recent weeks, has sent air quality levels up to “red alert” levels in several Norwegian cities, including Oslo.
The pollution wasn’t entire visible, but newspaper Dagsavisen reported on Thursday that Oslo was facing its 11th day in a row of smoggy air. Drammen, Grenland, Hamar and Lørenskog were also suffering the aftermath of a cold and icy winter. Even the former Olympic town of Lillehammer was registering “moderate” air pollution, as were most cities in the inland counties of Hedmark and Oppland.
Melting snow and ice leave all the gravel and sand behind, and ordinary vehicular traffic stirs it up, according to Dag Tønnesen of the Norwegian institute that researches air quality (NILU). He warned of possible health effects for those with any respiratory problems.
City officials in Oslo claimed that annual street cleaning was underway and the air was expected to clear “soon.”