Air Pollution: The Silent Killer

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Leeds is the third worst polluted city in the UK and one of seven major cities to breach EU-regulated legal levels of air quality. If nothing is done to change this, the city will receive financial penalties by 2020.

In October 2016, proposals to introduce clean air zones in Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton were announced, which will come into effect by 2020. These five cities were chosen due to their high levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that is produced by diesel fumes.

Vehicles and other machinery that use fossil fuels produce fine particulate matter (PM2.5s) which can provoke health problems. PM2.5s are miniscule and can penetrate people’s lungs. They have been linked to strokes, lung cancer, respiratory conditions, as well as heart disease and are also thought to exacerbate the symptoms of asthma.

In 2017 alone almost 700 people would have died from illnesses related to air pollution

Problems related to air pollution have put a huge strain on the local economy. The environmental campaign group, Global Action Plan (GAP), found that in 2017 alone almost 700 people would have died from illnesses related to air pollution. Responding to this health crisis now reportedly costs more than treating people for obesity related diseases.

To try and combat this problem, Leeds City Council is planning to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). The strategy would charge HGV vehicles, buses and coaches £50 per day to enter the zone, which will cover over half of Leeds. Taxis and private hire vehicles will be charged £12.50 per day, and locally licensed drivers can pay £50 per week. Privately owned cars and light goods vehicles would not be charged.

A network of cameras will be introduced in January 2020 to monitor drivers. To help with the costs of the scheme, Leeds City Council has requested £13m from the Government for costs with infrastructure, as well as a further £27m from the Clean Air Fun to support local businesses upgrade to hybrid and electric vehicles, or to fund retrofitting equipment which will help to reduce emissions.

Alex Sobel, the MP for Leeds North West, said: “The air quality in Leeds and in other major UK cities has reached dangerous levels and is impacting significantly on public health. Asthma and other respiratory conditions are on the rise and fatalities linked to poor air quality average out to around one person, per constituency, per week.

“In my election campaign I pledged to do all that I can to clean up our air and have spent much of my first year as an MP campaigning on this issue both in Leeds and in Parliament.

“I am pleased that Leeds City Council are bringing in the Clean Air Zone to reduce harmful diesel vehicles entering the city. This however, is just the beginning. We need to ensure that the Government initiates a new clean air act and invests properly in public health. We also need to increase public awareness of this invisible killer in order to put urgently cleaning up our air at the front and centre of our national discourse.”

The proposed Clean Air Zone can be viewed here:
https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=de0120ae980b473982a3149ab072fdfc&extent=-1.733,53.7378,-1.333,53.8621

Polly Hatcher, Associate Editor

Image: [Pixabay]