Management of Air Quality


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Management of Air Quality

The UK Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 implement European legally binding limits on major outdoor air pollutants.  Research now shows currently permitted pollution levels cause more health problems and premature deaths than previously estimated.   WHO (2005) says there are no safe levels for some and PM10and ozone have particularly significant effects  (Janke, et al 2009).  

The UK Air Quality Strategy aims to cut reduced life expectancy to 5 months by 2020.   It requires local authorities to identify pollutants above limits  and take action to reduce “exceedences”.  

Hackney’s screening of industrial, transport and other sources in 1998 reported carbon monoxide, benzene, 1,3-butdiene and lead within limits but possible breaches by NO2, particulates and sulfur dioxide.  Industrial emissions were not a major problem - see Hackney’s maps:Environment&Planning/Pollution/PLN Prescribed Processes.    The main causes are high traffic volumes, slow speeds and heavily congested roads.

Working with other boroughs in the Central London Cluster Group, detailed assessments in 2001 and 2002 and dispersal modelling led to designation of an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) across Hackney focussed on NOx and PM10.   An Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) was published and approved by the Mayor of London ensuring compliance with the London Air Quality Strategy and its priorities on transport, industrial sources, construction, fires, energy and heating.   (GLA, 2010)  

The public were consulted on the UK legislation and UK, London and Hackney strategies and plans.

The borough monitors NO2, O3, PM2.5 and PM10 at Old Street as part of the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) and NO2 at 12 diffusion tube sites.   Clapton monitoring station was closed after reviews concluded it was unsuitable as either a roadside or urban background monitoring site (see FAQs).     Monitoring is important for real time information, trend assessments, health alerts and verifing modelling results.   Other LAQN monitoring sitesare located in surrounding boroughs (see image).

European Environment Agency data and UK reports(NAEI, 2012) show significant reductions in air pollutants across Europe and the UK.    However, there are serious concerns:

  • EU limits are breached and many Europeans are exposed to harmful pollutants.   2013 has been designated the ‘Year of Air’ to focus attention on the problems and encourage increased action
  • The ‘Better Regulation’ of industrial and commercial emissions is criticised as “trust and trade” by critics such as Walters (2009), permitting emissions from economic activity at the expense of life and health
  • EU limits are less rigorous than WHO guidance (WHO, 2000, 2005)
  • Some Scottish and Northern Irish objectives  are already lower than England & Wales
  • The UK government says targets will not be met until 2025 and is considering making those suffering pollution pay by passing EU fines on to local councils.

 Image: Central London LAQN monitoring sites


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