A recent investigation by the Daily Telegraph revealed that ‘four in ten children in primary schools are breathing toxic air that breached guidelines from the World Health Organisation’.
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has also warned that London’s “filthy, toxic air” has become a “public health emergency” that is killing thousands of people prematurely every year. He then went on to outline the “ambitious plans” he is putting in place to tackle the problem, including the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) which will come into effect in April 2019. The aim of ULEZ is to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions to improve the quality of the air Londoners breathe in daily. From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ area will be expanded to include the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular Roads.
On a national level, The UK Government produced its CLEAN AIR STRATEGY in 2019 and highlighted that it is committed to cutting air pollution from all forms of transport. The Clean Growth Strategy published in 2017, sets out measures which will reduce both CO2 emissions and air pollutant emissions from the transport sector. These include supporting a move to lower emission road vehicles and more active forms of travel (walking and cycling); and by accelerating the shift of freight from road to rail.
Also, in July 2018 they published the Road to Zero – setting out an approach to reducing exhaust emissions from road transport and complementing the Clean Air Strategy.
‘Our most immediate air quality challenge is to bring roadside concentrations of nitrogen oxides within legal limits in the shortest possible time. Road transport is responsible for some 80% of NOx concentrations at the roadside.
Our mission is to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles, and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.
As set out in the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations, we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. By then, we expect the majority of new cars and vans sold to be 100% zero emission and all new cars and vans to have significant zero emission capability. By 2050 we want almost every car and van to be zero emission.’
Making the switch from petrol and diesel engines to electric-run cars will help to reduce dangerous emissions and clean up our air.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said:
‘Air pollution kills 7 million people globally every year, making it one of the largest and most urgent threats to global health of our time,
I applaud the United Kingdom’s Clean Air Strategy, which will not only help to protect the health of millions of people but is also an example for the rest of the world to follow.’
It seems that time is running out for diesel and petrol engines and that electric powered vehicles may be the future for us all.
According to the Gov.UK website, in 2017, the total NHS and social care cost due to PM2.5 and NO2 was estimated to be £42.9 million in England. If no action to improve air quality is taken and trends continue, costs could accumulate to £5.3 billion between 2017 and 2035.
Whatever your thoughts and views may be concerning this issue, the one thing that is paramount is that air pollution must be reduced to help improve the health of everyone. It hard to say how effective these strategies will be, but at least it is a plan.