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Air pollution is brought home

Availability of air quality data puts pressure on governments and property sector to act.
18 March 2021 , Katie Coyne

A new national website is allowing people to measure air quality on their street using their postcode.

Research from the initiative shows that one in four UK addresses – almost eight million – are exposed to air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization safety limits.

addresspollution.org offers a free air quality report for every UK address based on data from the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London.

The work was commissioned by campaign group the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI), which wants the property sector to mandatorily disclose air quality information in the same way it does with asbestos. And it hopes this will also put pressure on governments to act.

A pop-up ‘demand action’ button is displayed to visitors using the site, which takes them through to a petition calling for estate agents and sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla to disclose air quality info at the “earliest opportunity”.

COPI founder Humphrey Milles described air pollution as a “dangerous, invisible killer” and said it would be “shameful” for the property industry not to inform people now this air quality information was so readily and easily accessible.

Legal opinion obtained by COPI goes further and suggested there is a strong legal argument that estate agents, property websites, surveyors and conveyancers will need to inform prospective buyers and renters of air pollution levels.

In their opinion Jessica Simor QC and barrister Neil Fawcett refer to the ground-breaking recent ruling on the re-opened inquest into the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, which found her death was “contributed to” by exposure to excessive air pollution. Previously, deaths were only "linked" to exposure to air pollution.

Mark Cunningham, chief executive and co-founder of Whenfresh, which provides property data to major lenders, said that if the problem of air pollution isn’t dealt with, “it will clearly have an impact on the saleability and value of properties in high pollution areas”.

He added: “So like asbestos, radon, flood risk and Japanese knotweed, if data is available the mortgage lenders will want to understand it. Lenders take any environmental issues that might impact the value of the properties they effectively co-own very seriously."

The website’s national roll-out – it was previously available in some London areas – follows a report published in the journal Environmental Research last month that concluded that 99,000 early deaths across the UK are due to dirty air.

Another piece of research published by the European Society of Cardiology in October 2020 found 15% of COVID-19 deaths globally could be attributable to air pollution.

Earlier this month the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the UK has “systematically and persistently” exceeded legal limits for dangerous nitrogen dioxide (NO2) since 2010.

The UK has agreed to abide by court decisions initiated before it left the European Union. It could therefore face fines if it continues not to comply, and has been ordered to pay the European Commission's legal costs.

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