Reproduced with kind permission from Bay Publishing: www.bay-publishing.com
Air pollution is much worse than most of us have realised. It regularly exceeds twice the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and a recent report by an expert panel of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) presented the need to revisit the state of air quality in major cities around the world.
In October 2013, the WHO classified both outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). They are now classified with about 100 other agents including tobacco smoke, ultraviolet radiation and plutonium. The WHO also called outdoor air pollution the most widespread environmental carcinogen. Only smoking causes more early deaths than air pollution when considering separately exposures, impacts and health outcomes.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have particular needs, even excluding those of staff and visitors and the impact of outdoor or ambient air quality (AAQ), because patients are vulnerable and diseases are prevalent. In fact, hospitals are uniquely vulnerable and exposed to heightened risks of health, fire and safety hazard. Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Europe may not be taking seriously enough the need to protect people from outdoor and indoor air pollution as well as bio particles and airborne infection.
Let’s rewind. AAQ comprises particles and gases. The particles, which can comprise anything from tiny droplets to diesel soot and tyre and brake wear, are called particulate matter and are classified by their aerodynamic diameter in microns (one millionth of a metre – µm – which is about one hundredth of the thickness of a human hair) e.g. PM2.5 and PM10. The gases, which can coalesce and become particles, are mainly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and sulphur dioxide (SO2). Indoor air quality (IAQ) can be worse than AAQ due to the many sources of pollution within buildings, particularly hospitals.
Clean Air in London calls for the banning of all diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of London by 2020.
Clean Air in London (CAL)used powerful European access to environmental information laws to obtain 1.5 million pieces of data from the Mayor of London. Thousands of pages have been published.
The top three worst roads in 2012 were A406 (North Circular), A282 (Dartford Crossing) and A13 (Commercial Road). Shoppers are being gassed in Oxford Street by Transport for London buses and showered in deadly particles in Brompton Road by taxis, diesel light goods vehicles and cars. Many suburban roads among the worst e.g. Reigate Hill and Twickenham Road.
Diesel vehicles responsible for up to 30 times more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particle exhaust emissions (PM2.5) than petrol vehicles. Petrol cars and motorcycles most responsible for benzene. Air pollution has not fallen as the Mayor’s computer modelling predicted. Annual average levels of NO2 in Oxford Street and Brompton Road well over twice legal limits
Free Clean Air in Cities IndexTM App reporting the health impact of long-term exposure to air pollution (PM2.5) on the population in local areas, regions and England as a whole can be downloaded at http://itun.es/i6xj69k
The Mayor of London has released details of diesel exhaust for every significant road link in London after a formal request from Clean Air in London (CAL) using powerful European access to environmental information laws. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic for humans in June 2012.
This article first appeared in the January 2013 issue of The Safety & Health Practitioner – www.shponline.co.uk
As a consequence of the many sources of pollution in buildings, air quality indoors can often be worse than outdoors, says Simon Birkett, who considers the evidence, the impact of poor air quality on workers and visitors, and what can be done to address the problem.