Tuesday, March 3, 2015

UK calls for Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Its Health Impacts

Action on Air Quality - HC 212 - Sixth Report of Session 2014–15 (51 page pdf, Environmental Audit Committee, House of Commons, UK, Nov. 26, 2014) Also discussed here: Air pollution 'causing deadly public health crisis' (James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC News, Dec. 7, 2014)

Today we review a report from a Committee of the British House of Commons calling for action both in the short and long term (2030) to improve air quality – its 3rd report on this issue in the last 5 years. In 92% of the Air Quality Management Areas, road transport is the main cause of that pollution, so that recommendations call for more efficient vehicles and fewer diesel powered ones and more Low Emission Zones. The Committee recognizes the powerful lobbies (such as automobile associations and oil/gas industry) against progress – as it is, if not more so in Canada and the USA - but pleads that the UK government should not wait to be ordered by the EU parliament to act. UK deaths due air pollution  

Key Quotes:

“The UK Government has been found guilty of failing to meet EU air quality targets in our cities, some of which will not meet the required limits until 2030”

Public Health England calculated the local impact of particulate matter pollution on premature mortality, ranging from 2.5% in some local authorities in rural Scotland and Northern Ireland to over 8% in some London boroughs.”

“pollution from road transport, which is the main cause of pollution in 92% of Air Quality Management Areas…is recognized as the biggest single contributor to two of the most harmful and widespread sources of air pollution—nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). Road transport is responsible for 42% of carbon monoxide, 46% of nitrogen oxides and 26% particulate matter in England”

“Diesel vehicles have increasingly been identified as the most significant driver of air pollution in our cities, exacerbated by the growth in their number as a result of favourable fiscal incentives compared with the taxes applied to petrol and petrol vehicles.”

 “It is unacceptable that a whole generation of people living in our towns and cities could have their health seriously impaired by air pollution above EU limits before the Government brings this public health problem under control. It should not need a European court case to focus Government attention on air pollution.” “New schools, care homes and hospitals should be built far away from major roads because of the dangers of air pollution” “

"There is a public health crisis in terms of poor air quality….There are nearly as many deaths now caused by air pollution as there are from smoking, so the main thing is we stop a new generation of children being exposed."

Key Recommendations:
  • “Introduce a national framework for low emission zones to help local authorities reduce air pollution
  • Institute a national public awareness campaign to increase understanding, publicising the UK-AIR forecast website and encourage measures to reduce air pollution."

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