Campaigners are calling on us to cycle more
Campaigners are calling on us to use alternative forms of transport to help tackle air pollution

Campaigners across Nottingham say they are “deeply concerned” after a study found that a quarter of homes are in areas where air pollution levels exceeded the limit set by the World Health Organisation.

The report – based on research by Imperial College London – found that around eight million homes across the United Kingdom are affected by high levels of particulate matter.

In some areas of Nottingham, particulate matter has been found to be double the level set by the WHO.

Scientists who conducted the study divided the nation into 20m x 20m squares and fed the emission data into a computer model, producing the most detailed analysis yet of pollution levels across the country.

A national database commissioned by the Central Office of Public Interest now stores the results, with each address being given a rating from “low” to “very high”.

Any ranking above the “medium” threshold means that the address exceeds the limit set by the World Health Organisation.

“The health effects of this cannot be underestimated”
Karl Barrow, Clean Air Campaigner, Nottingham Friends of the Earth

Guidelines released by the WHO suggest that the annual concentration level of PM2.5 should not exceed 10ug/m.

In Nottingham, campaigners are particularly concerned about the levels of PM2.5, particulate matter a third of the size of a human hair.

AUDIO: Karl Barrow, clean air campaigner at Nottingham Friends of the Earth, describes the true dangers of PM2.5

Research conducted by the Nottingham Friends of the Earth Group in 2019 estimated that exposure to this particulate kills 150 residents across Nottingham annually.

“PM2.5 is a lot more dangerous to human health than nitrous dioxide,” said Karl Barrow, Nottingham Friends of the Earth’s clean air campaigner.

“The vast majority of deaths due to air pollution in the UK are as a result of PM2.5. At least 12% is coming from vehicles on the road.

“It’s got all sorts of health impacts. It exacerbates respiratory illnesses. But it also has much bigger effects on people’s cardiovascular system. It causes ischemic heart disease.

“The health effects of this cannot be underestimated. They are really serious. Even low levels of PM2.5 on a healthy adult, after 30 minutes of exposure, have a noticeable effect on the cardiovascular system. There is no safe level to this stuff.

“We see using public transport as a major solution to this. We need to reduce the use of private cars, and even reduce the use of electric cars. The car needs to become our last transport option.”

The group acknowledges that Nottingham City Council has taken appropriate steps over recent years to tackle air pollution.

“The solutions are clear”
Jemima Hartshorn, Founder of mums for Lungs

Measures include a workplace car parking levy, an extension of the tram system, as well as encouraging residents to walk and cycle more.

Research suggests that exposure to pollution at up to 500m away from a road can damage human health.

AUDIO: Jemima Hartshorn, founder of the ‘ums for Lungs campaign, calls for immediate change to help tackle air pollution 

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of the ‘Mums for Lungs’ campaign, has called for small steps to be implemented immediately to tackle this hidden epidemic.

“The evidence is really stark that air pollution is far too high. The solutions are clear and they have been for several years.

“In London there are two major sources of air pollution. One of the things which is absolutely essential is extending the ultra-low emission zone across the capital.

“Cycling is also for many families not deemed to be safe. The car is an easy option because buses are slow.

“The WHO is planning to develop its guidelines on air pollution. They have made it very clear that there is no healthy level.

“There’s almost a new study every week now linking air pollution to terrible illnesses, including diabetes. It can even affect our mental health. It’s really apparent that we can’t ignore this problem.”

The Department for Transport has announced that local authorities across England would receive an extra £5.1 million to help tackle air pollution.

Proposals set out by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow include an enhanced educational programme for schoolchildren, a new partnership with GPs to help raise awareness of the health impacts of pollution and a promotion campaign to encourage the uptake of electric taxis.

Health effects linked to air pollution

  1. Exacerbation of asthma
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Respiratory conditions
  4. Cardiovascular disease
  5. Lung cancer

(Source: Public Health England)