Airpocalypse Now? [British Safety Council article by Matthew Holder]

Article by Matthew Holder – British Safety Council

In 2012, according to estimates from the World Health Organisation, seven million people died across the world because of air pollution. Years after London’s ‘pea soupers’ and all the technological and legislative developments since then, how can air pollution now be the world’s largest environmental health risk?

air pollution

While increases in wealth from economic growth may allow us to spread our wings, environmental burdens can quickly bring us down to earth with a bump. When it comes to air pollution, more and more people are asking whether enough is being done to reduce it.

The high pollution levels we saw in March and April affecting London, Paris and other parts of western Europe seemed a surprise to many, a remnant of a previous age, of ‘pea soupers’ and gloomy streetlights in the 1940s, or more recent battles from the 1970s and 1980s about lead in petrol, acid rain or chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Continue reading

Deadly health effects of traffic pollution shown by EU funded study

Article by Peter Dyment, Camfil UK

Another European EU funded study confirms that previous WHO air pollution limits set for PM2.5 and related Nitrogen dioxode NO2 are too high and now need to be lowered for health reasons. traffic pollution

This latest study led by Dr Rob Beelen, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands estimates that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic metre in annual exposure to fine-particle air pollution PM2.5, the risk of dying from resulting exposure rises by 7%. PM2.5 stands for particulate matter 2.5 microns and below in size and is usually comprised almost entirely of toxic traffic emissions.

In large cities such as London the annual mean values for PM2.5 are typically in the range 15 to 25 micrograms per cubic metre and sometimes even more at busy road junctions. Simple arithmetic indicates increased risk of dying at 14% to 28% above a base level of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.

The world health organisation says there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5 pollution. Exposure results in raised levels of heart and lung disease in the population.

The Kings College air quality website now has an interactive website that enables anybody living in London to enter their work or home post code and get a personal colour coded map to show annual levels of PM2.5 fine combustion particulates and associated gas phase pollution such as Nitrogen Dioxide. An example is shown below for the City area of London.

annual pollution map

Ref. Kings College; Continue reading

Keep the city diesel air pollution out – BBC File on 4 documentary

The award winning BBC documentary programme File on 4 has recently produced a timely documentary on the health threat of toxic air pollution from increased traffic.

Keep the city out

You can listen to the File on 4 documentary here:

Professor Frank Kelly of the Environmental Research Group at Kings College London says:

Ten to twenty times more particles” are produced by modern diesel cars compared to petrol cars. ” We have more than 1 in 2 private cars now being purchased as being a diesel vehicle.

Research by Dr. James Tate of the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University has shown that there has been an increase in emissions of oxides of Nitrogen from the latest generation of diesel cars. Sometimes these emissions are five times the expected levels.

The health damage caused by fine combustion particulates and gas pollutants like Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) has been highlighted in a recent emphatic statement from the World Health Organisation. (WHO).

Professor Frank Kelly also says:

It is now recognised that air pollution is the second biggest public health challenge we have after smoking, so this is a major cost driver to our NHS system.

For those that do not smoke a recent 2010 report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee compared exposure to man-made PM2.5 (Fine combustion particulate 2.5 microns and below in size) with passive smoking and found exposure to PM2.5 to be three times more damaging to health.

Continue reading