UK Air Pollution puts Lives at Risk


Recently on the BBC news, the Environmental Audit Committee reported on the  British government’s failure to meet EU standards on air pollution  an act that is ‘putting the health of UK residents at risk’ it is believed. What comes to my mind is how air, a natural resource freely shared by UK citizens has come under state management and responsibility. Looking at air as a global ‘commons’, it would be interesting to note how air quality is managed by the state, not only in Britain but  also large cities worldwide with problems associated with high urbanisation.

The Environmental Audit committee, points out that bad air quality costs the nation of Britain £8.5-20bn per year via poor health and can cut life expectancy by years; to avoid fines, the UK government has been asking the EU Commission for repeated extensions in meeting their carbon limits rather actually curb pollution. What one may find some how appalling is that the British government admits to the committee that air pollution takes seven or eight months off Briton’s life expectancy. According to the article, Britain last reported on air pollution 18 months ago, and since then there has been no meaningful evidence to suggest progress towards meeting standards, it also has been in breach of EU rules since 2005.  Statistics cited by the article actually show that in 2008,         4 000 people died from air pollution in London and 30 000 people died in the whole of the UK . The committee views this is as a national scandal by the British government with thousands of people dying and taking no responsibility for it.  Of greater interest, the committee points out that it is the poorest people living in the cities, who live near the busiest roads and breath in diesel fumes, dangerous chemicals and bits of tyre everyday.

UK research indicates that the significant source of air pollution is tyres and brakes and vehicle exhausts, and London has exceeded EU standards. EU Regulations allow legal limits to be exceeded for 35 days a year, and notably London has reached it quota in April.  Despite Mayor Boris Johnson’s response to this crisis and setting age limits for black cabs, invested cycling and implemented the London Low Emission Zone; in terms of breaching Nitrogen Dioxide limits, Greater London is one of the cities that will still be in breach in 2015 and will take longer to clean up. Still London plans to host the ‘greenest ever olympic games’ in 2012.

The audit committee finds that the Government departments themselves are not taking air quality management seriously, e.g. Defra and Department for transport have no air quality action plans. The British’s government’s response to the committee’s previous report was to hide behind its localism agenda, devolving the responsibility to Local Authorities but this could mean the EU fines being passed down to local authorities as well. The question is whether the Local Authorities will have the resources to tackle what is a national problem?


One Response to “UK Air Pollution puts Lives at Risk”

  1. ngoziokei Says:

    Air is the one the free gifts given to human being by God. Without air, no human being will be alive. Therefore air pollution is what we dont want to see in our atmosphere. No country should fail to meet EU standard of air pollution. UK commoners should have a clean healthy atmophere, for a clean breath intake, without having any health problems. Since the entire world is globalizing, definitly, there will be air pollution in the atmosphere (Carbon monoxide, CO2), which is dangerous to human beings health. Local authorities should tackle this problem of air pollution seriously because air is very vital for life .

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