Many people are concerned about pollution in the air that they breathe – and with very good reason.
Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK as long-term exposure can cause chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer, leading to reduced life expectancy.
It’s linked to thousands of early deaths every year in the UK, including almost 500 in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
There are many contributing factors but by far the largest is road transport in many towns and cities.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and tiny invisible particles from exhaust fumes, tyres and brakes are present in the air we breathe. All vehicles cause some pollution, including those with low emissions, but those that run on diesel fuel and older vehicles are the biggest source.
Because nitrogen dioxide levels exceed the legal limit in our area, the Government has told the Borough Council – and neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent City Council – that we have to do something about it.
Many of the measures that might be taken to reduce NO2 will also reduce particle emissions which is just as important for public health.
The effect of poor air quality on people’s health
Air pollution is linked with cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. New research also suggests that people who live in areas with high levels of pollution may be more at risk of developing dementia.
Evidence from the World Health Organisation shows that poor air quality is particularly dangerous for children, older people and those already living with long-term health conditions like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The effects on our health build over time.
Air quality in our area
We regularly monitor air quality across our areas and we know there are some places with higher pollution levels than others.
We know where the worst affected areas are and we’re already taking action to address this, including:-
Securing £780,000 from the Government to support the use of “greener” taxis across the Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford borough areas. This will go towards the creation of up to 30 charge points for ultra-low emission taxis.
The Government has provided funding to enable an engine retrofit on buses travelling through Basford Bank from Sandy Lane in Newcastle towards Festival Park. This is one of the worst polluting routes on the local bus network.
Producing and monitoring air quality at locations throughout the whole borough.
Declaring Air Quality Management Areas – there are currently four in our borough which are at Newcastle town centre, Little Madeley, Kidsgrove town centre and the May Bank, Wolstanton and Porthill area.
There are other things councils can do, such as investing in public transport systems and making further improvements to the roads network, but these are often dependent on Government funding being made available.
We can all help
There are lots of things we can all do to help improve our air quality.
One of the biggest ways we can make a difference is to reduce the number of car journeys we make by switching to public transport, walking or cycling. This has the important added benefit of improving your health.
Even if you walk or cycle on a busy road, you are less at risk from health-threatening pollutants than when you’re inside a vehicle – you may not see or smell it inside the car, but you are still breathing pollution.
Car sharing, turning your engine off when you’re not moving anywhere and choosing a low or zero emission vehicle are other things we can also do to help.
If you’re a business or employer, you could set up schemes to support car sharing or incentives for staff to use public transport or cycle to work. Or you could introduce flexible working so that people can choose to travel outside of peak travel times or work from home.
Last updated 19 September 2019