Lancaster air pollution limits breached according to new research

Safe air pollution limits are being breached in Lancaster, analysis suggests.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 3:45 pm
Diesel cars are one of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide emissions.

That is according to research by environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth, which analysed council reports on nitrogen dioxide in the air at monitoring sites across England.

It warns that failing to fix air pollution costs lives, and shows a failure to address the climate crisis.

The audit found six places in Lancaster where the average level of nitrogen dioxide exceeded 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.

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The average must be below 40 to meet government air quality targets, while World Health Organisation guidelines set this as a safe limit to protect public health.

The worst offending location – at the area’s Dalton Square site – came in at 55.

According to Friends of the Earth, road traffic is the leading cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution, which can inflame the lining of the lungs and reduce immunity to infections such as bronchitis.

Nationally, 1,360 sites failed to meet the 40 micrograms target in 2018.

Although this was down from 1,591 the previous year, Friends of the Earth said the figure was still shocking.

The group’s clean air campaigner Simon Bowens said: “Failing to fix air pollution costs lives. It also shows a failure to address the climate crisis.

“If ministers want to avoid a return to the health-damaging and illegal levels of air pollution we had before lockdown, their enthusiasm for ‘active travel’ needs to be a permanent switch and not just a short-term gap plugger.”

The Government recently announced plans to boost cycling and walking, including a pledge to build thousands of miles of bike lanes, which will be paid for by £2 billion of funding announced earlier this year.

But environmental campaigners have criticised its separate commitment to invest £27 billion in roadbuilding over the next five years.

Mr Bowens added that the Government must “end its damaging fixation on building more roads”.

Across the North West, 81 sites recorded annual averages that failed to meet air quality standards, one of which registered levels of more than 60 micrograms per cubic metre.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said: “Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 – emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 33% and are at their lowest level since records began.

“But we know there is more to do, which is why we are taking urgent action to curb the impact air pollution has on communities across England through the delivery of our £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 pollution.”

A Lancaster City Council spokesman said: "Although we are still getting exceedances of nitrogen dioxide standards in the Lancaster Air Quality Management Area as the results indicate, results since 2014 have shown a declining trend.

"2019 results are now available at https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/environmental-health/environmental-protection/air-quality/background-to-air-pollution-measurement-and-monitoring

"Nitrogen dioxide levels in the Galgate and Carnforth Air Quality Management Areas have not shown exceedance over the past few years and also indicate a declining trend.

"Nitrogen dioxide levels in 2020 are anticipated to be markedly lower in the city centre due to the impact on traffic movements during the national lockdown period (levels are currently being monitored and will be reported in 2021).

"We are currently working with the county council on a movement strategy for the city centre looking at a number of options to change traffic/transport arrangements.

"This will be the subject of a public consultation and will help to shape and form the key elements of a new air quality action plan for Lancaster city centre. Once developed, a further consultation will take place. As you will appreciate, progress on these matters has been delayed slightly due to Covid-19."