Uni of #Manchester prof on air quality – 40 thousands premature deaths a year in UK.

EXPERT COMMENTARY: “40,000 premature deaths a year in UK caused by poor air quality”

Professor Hugh Coe is Professor of Atmospheric Composition in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester and a leading expert in air pollution.

Today (Thursday 15th May) is the first ever National Clean Air Day and Professor Hugh Coe says it is imperative we reduce air pollution in our towns and cities.

“Poor air quality in our cities has been estimated to lead to over 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. The main health effects that are known to arise from poor air quality are heart disease and poor lung function. However, infant development, cognitive function and other diseases and conditions have also been linked to air pollution, though these links are not yet well proven.”

Prof Coe says those living in ubran areas are at the highest risk levels: “To minimise the effects of pollution on our health we need to decrease the levels of pollution in our towns and cities and also reduce our exposure to the pollution,” he says.

“The closer we are to car exhausts the greater our exposure, so living close to major highways, working for extended periods near to major traffic routes, spending a long time in a car in traffic where emissions are taken into the car through the front grille all increase our risk.”

So what makes air pollution and contaminants so dangerous and what causes it? “Oxides of nitrogen and tiny particulates less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, that’s less than ten times the width of a human hair, exceed legislated guidelines many times each year across our cities affecting people who live and work there.”

Diesel vehicles are a particular issue according to Prof Coe, “these oxides of nitrogen are emitted largely by road vehicles and, in recent years, it has become apparent that reductions in emissions from diesels under test conditions are not being translated into on road reductions under real driving conditions. This has led to us experiencing large concentrations in our cities.”

Prof Coe adds whilst the vehicles on our roads are undoubtedly the primary source of air pollution, there are also other contributory factors: “Particulates arise from vehicle exhausts but also from other sources such as wood burning in homes in winter, commercial cooking, non-exhaust road emissions from tyre, engine and brake wear and resuspension from road surfaces.  Construction makes a substantial contribution also.”

But Prof Coe adds there are some simple ways the public can help reduce emissions: “Things like not adding to pollution during the school run and exposing children to harmful pollution are extremely beneficial. Think about the journey, do you really need to use your car? And it’s not just the school run. We need to consider how we can commute to work in a cleaner, but efficient way and to think more carefully before we use our vehicles.”

That is why Prof Coe believes events like National Clean Air Day need to be embraced by the relevant authorities and general public: “The first ever National Clean Air Day aims to inform us of how we create pollution, how we can minimise it and also how we can reduce our exposure to it. The day is to encourage us into action to reduce our reliance on using our cars wherever we can, so we are not fouling the air for our neighbours.”


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3 Responses to Uni of #Manchester prof on air quality – 40 thousands premature deaths a year in UK.

  1. David Bishop says:

    And don’t forget the dire effects of ‘oh so trendy darling’ wood burning stoves. I can’t usually smell the pollution from motor vehicles but during the winter most of the South Manchester conurbation stinks of wood smoke! I can’t have a smoke alarm in my house in Chorlton because the smoke from neighbours’ wood burning stoves is always setting it off. God knows what harm the smoke is doing to my health and the health of the general population of Chorlton!

  2. David Bishop says:

    And we shouldn’t forget the impact that nitrogen emissions from vehicles is having on the UK’s biodiversity. Here’s a statement recently released by biodiversity experts (thanks to Copland Smith for sending me this recently):

    Wednesday 14 June 2017

    On National Clean Air Day, Thursday 15 June, we’re calling for action to cut air pollution which threatens our native wildlife (Nature needs fresh air too, 2 June). The UK government’s air quality consultation, closing on 15 June, focuses on “tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities”. That issue deserves urgent action – but it’s not enough. Air pollution is a problem in both rural and urban areas, for people and wildlife. We need to tackle the sources and solutions as a whole.

    Nitrogen in air pollution acts as a fertiliser, making conditions too rich for many wild fungi and plants. That’s why you’re more likely to see nitrogen-tolerant species, such as common orange lichen, nettles and hemlock, on road verges and field margins – rather than bird’s foot trefoil, harebells or orchids, which are more sensitive. In 63% of special areas of conservation, our best wildlife sites, nitrogen levels are already too high. This has dire consequences for animals, including pollinating insects, that depend on wild fungi and plants for food, nutrients and shelter. This affects us all, as biodiversity is vital to our health and wellbeing, our culture and our economy.

    Measures to cut air pollution from transport and other sources need to be extended across the country – not just urban areas. These include better green spaces, public transport, walking and cycling routes. In particular, much faster action is needed to cut ammonia emissions, which have not reduced in line with other pollutants. Ammonia is a precursor to particulate matter, affecting human health as well as nature. The main source is farming – livestock and fertilisers – requiring concerted action by farmers, industry and government.

    Let’s have an air quality strategy that delivers for people and for wildlife.

    Ian Denholm Chair, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland

    David Minter President, International Society for Fungal Conservation

    Allan Pentecost President, British Lichen Society

    Matt Shardlow Chief executive, Buglife

    Marian Spain Chief executive, Plantlife

    Stephen Trotter Director, Wildlife Trusts England

    • rogerbysouth says:

      keeping this in mind, and at an “act local” level, then maybe the estimable http://www.unicorn-grocery.co.uk/ can alleviate what may be the most polluted bit of air in Chorlton viz the end of Albany Road where queues of its car-driving customers routinely idle their engines while they wait to get into the Unicorn car park … talk to the City Council Ward, Planning and Traffic folks … hell, even talk to neighbours BT with their vast van park … customer incentives and , er, disincentives. Irony is alive, organic and well. And PS no I don’t live on Albany Road.

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