The UK seems to be losing out at the moment to air pollution and while many of the public are under the impression that the nation breathes easy, it’s within big cities that problems are increasing.
Recently, the UK lost two legal battles concerning cleaner air and officials are now debating problems the UK is having here. As a nation, air pollution is dropping*, but in big cities like London, the problem is not going down. Oxides of nitrogen in the air remain a concern for population health and harm to wildlife – this is what the pollution is. Oxides of nitrogen have limits in areas but these are frequently broken, due to increased use of vehicles like diesel and petrol cars, old buses in circulation as well as gas and central heating from homes.
Looking at London alone, it seems that in some areas, diesel private cars are large contributors whilst gas and central heating is the main culprit in other parts of the city, however consideration must be made that the biggest proportion of pollution in UK cities does come from road transport in general. Overall, diesel cars are much more polluting than petrol cars on a local scale. Smaller percentages of the bigger picture of pollution are coming from taxis, industry and other machinery, such as on building sites.
There are solutions for improving the UK’s air quality, to wipe out the largest factor, old buses and lorries in cities, is the most economical solution but smaller actions on a large scale will help the problem too, for example:
Insulating homes so they don’t burn as much gas for example. People are reluctant to change energy companies but research will prove that some companies will reduce pollution and help save money.
Stopping wood-burning stoves in cities might help a bit.
Cutting pollution from ships would be good in port cities like Poole and Southampton.
Reducing use of some chemicals in the home would help a little.
The World Health Organization estimates that every year outdoor air pollution is linked to more than three million premature deaths making it the world’s greatest environmental health risk. We should be more informed about our air quality and fortunately there are schemes that are encouraging dialogue on the issue, yesterday concluded the end of the BBC weeklong series SoICanBreathe, all about air pollution. I would say it is worth reading up on the air we breathe every day, if not as another way we can help improve the environment.
*Excluding Ammonia for agriculture is another massive air pollution contributor and methods to stop this are a focus.
Image Credit: David Holt
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