While air quality in Reykjavík is for the most part good, two different studies have sought to find correlations between spikes in levels of air pollution and pharmaceutical purchases among Icelanders.
In one study it was found that when pollution caused by traffic increases, RÚV
reports, Icelanders buy more heart medication. Ragnhildur Guðrún Finnbjörnsdóttir, an expert in environmental matters, conducted the study.
Ragnhildur says more research still needs to be done, but thus far it appears that days when nitrogen dioxide - a major by-product of traffic pollution - was particularly high, sales of nitroglycerin tablets - heart medication most often taken to relieve angina - went up as well.
Traffic exhaust is not the only pollution affecting Icelanders, though. In a separate
study, medical student Hanne Krage Carlsen examined levels of sulphur and sulphites produced by geothermal energy plants from 2006 to 2009. She found that when levels of these pollutants spike, so too does the sale of asthma medication.
A psychological factor in both studies is unlikely. Levels of traffic exhaust and geothermal plant pollution are not made publicly available for any given day; rather, a general air quality index
is posted for those who want to keep track. However, the spike in buying heart and asthma medication usually comes a few days after the spike in pollutants.
Reykjavík residents appear to be sensitive to air pollution, as varying levels of impurities will have an immediate effect on their pharmaceutical needs.