UK Government ‘misleading’ public on air pollution | Innovative ideas like low-emission zones need to be backed up by more effective regulation

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How about ZERO emission zones?

Innovative ideas like low-emission zones need to be backed up by more effective regulation, says the report

Highlights:

Eco-crime

The report calls for stronger regulation:

‘The penalties imposed for operators’ breaching permits are minor in comparison to corporate profits,’ it said.

It adds that the public should be made more aware of the problem by the viewing air pollution offences as eco-crimes.

‘At present, corporations are seen as partners who exceed air pollution levels, rather than eco-criminals,’ it said.

UK Government ‘misleading’ public on air pollution

Ecologist

2nd September, 2009

UK ranked amongst the worst polluters in Europe for airborne particles and nitrogen dioxide

Defra has come in for damning criticism for failing to tackle air pollution in a report published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS).

The UK has repeatedly failed to meet EU air pollution targets over past decade, according to the report. This is despite the estimated 24,000 people who die prematurely every year in Britain because of air pollution.

Earlier this year the EU lost patience and began taking legal action against UK for repeatedly breaching pollution levels.

This follows a previous EU action against UK in 2007 for exceeding sulphur dioxide limits – an pollutant that can cause respiratory problems and aggravate cardiovascular disease.

Polluted cities

According to the CCJS report, Crime is in the air: air pollution and regulation in the UK, more than 20 towns and cities have been found to be emitting pollution at twice the level specified in WHO standards.

‘It is estimated that twice as many people today suffer from lung disease and asthmatic conditions caused by air pollution than they did 20 years ago,’ said the report.

Defra criticism

The report criticises Defra, the department responsible for publishing air quality statistics, for both underestimating the health dangers of air pollution and trying to ‘manipulate’ statistics.

‘There is an unhelpful and misleading language that underestimates the seriousness of exposure to air pollution: for example, comments such as ‘long-term exposure to even low levels of particulates (PM10) may have a significant may have a significant may effect on public health’.

‘There is no ‘may’ about it. The use of this defensive terminology serves to neutralise criticism of bland and unflattering government statistics,’ said the report.

It also criticised Defra for releasing its January 2009 update on air quality the same day as the EU Commission announced its intention to act against the UK for failing to tackle air pollution levels.

Eco-crime

The report calls for stronger regulation:
‘The penalties imposed for operators’ breaching permits are minor in comparison to corporate profits,’ it said.

It adds that the public should be made more aware of the problem by the viewing air pollution offences as eco-crimes.

At present, corporations are seen as partners who exceed air pollution levels, rather than eco-criminals,’ it said.

What’s in our air?

Sulphur dioxide Created through the combustion of fossil fuels that contain sulphur compounds. Can contribute to various lung conditions even at moderate levels of concentration
Toxic organic micropollutants (TOMPS) Very dangerous compounds emitted from smokestacks and vehicles. Carcinogenic chemicals such as dioxins, furans, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in small amounts are highly deleterious to humans and animals, and have been linked to cancer, lung disease, immune deficiency and cerebral dysfunction in young children
Fine particles Dusts, sulphates and nitrates from sources such as road traffic and atmospheric reactions. Fine particles can be carcinogenic and are able to pass through the lungs into the bloodstream, causing inflammation as well as more serious conditions
Butadiene A chemical released in the atmosphere by burning rubber and synthetics, and the emissions from petrol and diesel operated machinery. Butiadiene is thought to be responsible for a range of human health problems including birth defects, organ damage and reproductive disorders

Carbon monoxide
A poisonous gas produced by petrol engines. Damages respiratory and circulatory body functions. Reduces oxygen supply to major organs including the heart

Lead and heavy metals
Industrial areas emitting smoke and vapour waste create extremely dangerous lead compounds that can damage the neural and organ development of infants and young children as well as cause foetal deformities. This form of highly dangerous industrial pollution has also been linked to mental, neurological and visual problems
Ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) VOCs react with sunlight and nitrous oxide to create vapour that is capable of travelling thousands of miles. It causes damage to the natural environment as well as having the potential to exacerbate human health conditions such as asthma and lung disease
Nitrous oxides Found in vehicle and smokestack exhaust. Nitrous oxides compromise lung functions and can cause respiratory and viral illness, notably in children

This list is adapted from the UK’s National Air Quality Archive

Useful links

Crime is in the air: air pollution and regulation in the UK
Campaign for Clean Air in London

See also
Air pollution reduces rainfall in China

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/312893/uk_government_misleading_public_on_air_pollution.html

Cyclists and pedestrians: how to avoid traffic pollution

Cyclists and pedestrians: how to avoid traffic pollution

Ecologist

13th October, 2009

New research on the distribution of air pollution has found that existing government monitoring may be inadequate

We could avoid breathing in dangerous polluting toxins like carbon monoxide by choosing where we walk and cycle more carefully, say researchers.

Researchers from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds studied carbon monoxide levels over an eight week period at one of the busiest junctions in the UK – the intersection between Marylebone Road and Gloucester Place in West London.

Their findings, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, found that air pollution levels change dramatically within small geographical areas like cities due to wind patterns, location of traffic queues and the architecture of surrounding buildings.

Pollution hotspots

They found that pollution hotspots tend to accumulate on the sheltered, leeward side of the street and that carbon monoxide levels were up to four times lower in parallel side streets compared to the main road.

As such, pedestrians and cyclists could reduce their exposure to traffic pollution by simply crossing the street or changing their route slightly.

Air monitoring

Researchers said local authorities and other bodies monitoring air quality levels in urban areas may now need to re-think how and where they collect data.

‘Monitoring stations tend to be sited in what are expected to be pollution hotspots, but our research has shown that hotspots move depending on meteorological conditions, particularly wind direction,’ said lead author Professor Alison Tomlin.

‘We need to develop models which take these factors into account, so that the data from monitoring sites can be accurately analysed to provide a true reflection of air quality across the whole of an urban area.’

See also

Users Comments

Re: Cyclists and pedestrians: how to avoid traffic pollution
Posted By conquistador 1 October 16, 2009 01:26:43 AM

To avoid this inconvenience, the governments should build more ways with planted trees for pedestrian and cyclists, stop one or two days a week the circulation of vehicles, and copy the example of the Sao Paulo, Brazil were they are starting to use Public Transportation Buses powered by Hydrogen – What will be the cost for this solution? More clean air.

Re: Cyclists and pedestrians: how to avoid traffic pollution
Posted By moralman 1 October 16, 2009 08:01:20 AM

In addition to conquistador’s suggestions, traffic needs to be kept out of the centres of urban areas by increasing the extent of pedestrian zones. The only motorised vehicles allowed should be electric ones. Saas Fee in Switzerland has been like this for years.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/336731/cyclists_and_pedestrians_how_to_avoid_traffic_pollution.html

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