UK homes breach air pollution guidelines

Over two-thirds of UK addresses fall short of WHO pollution limits
12 May 2022 , Steve Smethurst

CIEH is part of a coalition striving to improve air quality as part of the Healthy Air Campaign (HAC), aiming to amend the Environmental Bill

Ninety-seven per cent of UK homes are affected by air pollution that breaches at least one of the Global Air Quality Guidelines produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The stark statistic comes from the non-profit group the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) and Imperial College London and is based on modelling of Defra-approved data on three key pollutants cross-referenced with 30 million registered addresses.

Worryingly, the results indicate that as many as 70% of UK addresses breach WHO limits for all three pollution guidelines. These relate to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers (PM10); particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5); and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The worst-polluted towns and cities in the UK include London, Slough, Portsmouth, Leeds, Manchester and Reading. The North of Scotland and South West England offer the cleanest air.

Humphrey Milles, founder of COPI, said: “Air pollution is a group-one cause of cancer, just like asbestos. Everyone has a right to know what they’re breathing before they buy or rent. Air pollution isn’t insurmountable, we can all do something about it.”

CIEH is working hard to improve air quality and is part of the Healthy Air Campaign (HAC) coalition of charities and public health organisations that have been striving to amend the Environmental Bill and commit the UK Government to the WHO’s air quality guidelines.

“The Government’s target to halve PM2.5 by 2040 is 10 years later than we have been campaigning for. This delayed approach is a failure to protect public health.”

Dr Phil James, Chief Executive, CIEH has previously expressed his disappointment at the Government’s timelines on reducing air pollution. He said: “The Government’s target to halve PM2.5 by 2040 is 10 years later than we have been campaigning for. This delayed approach is a failure to protect public health.”

Tim Dexter, Campaigns Manager, Air Quality at HAC member-organisation Asthma + Lung UK, described air pollution as a ‘health emergency’. He told EHN Extra: “It damages our lungs and worsens conditions such as asthma and COPD, cutting 36,000 lives short each year. Those living in poorer communities, which tend to be more polluted by toxic air, are seven times more likely to die of a respiratory condition than those in the richest areas. 

“Current proposals to tackle toxic air are not fit for purpose and the government is resigning another generation to the health impacts of breathing dirty air. We need action now.”

Asthma + Lung UK is urging people to respond to the Government’s consultation on new air pollution targets, making sure that these are met by 2030 at the latest. EHPs can use the following link to have their say: Clean Air Consultation. To check pollution levels at a UK address, visit: addresspollution.org

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

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