Sunday September 15, 2019

Air Pollution ‘Largest Environmental Risk to Public Health in UK’: Report

Cosford said a key challenge was the commonly held view that actions to reduce air pollution run counter to economic growth and development

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China
Chinese censors have erased online debate over US-China trade negotiations as the two countries appeared to back away from a trade war.

Public Health England (PHE) has put forward a series of recommendations aimed at reducing the 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year in Britain attributed to long-term exposure to polluted air.

One recommendation in the 250-page PHE report published here on Monday was for town and city councils to be given powers to implement no-idling zones to stop people leaving their car engines running while waiting outside schools, hospitals and care homes.

Another proposal would see low-emission or clean air zones to discourage the most highly polluting vehicles from entering populated areas, Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said that air pollution was the biggest environmental threat to health in Britain with strong evidence that air pollution causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, lung cancer and exacerbates asthma.

“The evidence is clear on the scale of harm from air pollution. It is the largest environmental risk to the public’s health in the UK,” warned the report.

Delhi. air pollution
A man rides his bicycle in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018 (Representational image). VOA

“People are exposed to outdoor air pollution in the places where they live, work and spend their leisure time. Whilst there are opportunities for individuals to reduce their personal exposure, or that of their children, these are limited,” it said.

The document said that public spaces should be redesigned so people aren’t so close to highly polluting roads by making streets wider or using green hedges to screen against pollutants. There should also be more investment in clean public transport, footpaths and cycle paths.

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s Medical Director, said: “Action is needed at all levels to address this unacceptable, serious and avoidable source of harm to our health. We all have a role to play in helping to make sure that the air that we, and future generations, breathe is clean air.”

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Cosford said a key challenge was the commonly held view that actions to reduce air pollution run counter to economic growth and development.

In January, the British government announced a “Clean Air Strategy” setting out plans to meet ambitious legally binding international targets to reduce emission of the five most damaging air pollutants by 2030. It will be followed by a wider Environment Bill. (IANS)

Next Story

Barcelona Could Cut Deaths from Air Pollution and Improve Quality of Life by Implementing in Full Plan

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona

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Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
FILE - Pollution and clouds are seen over the sky of Barcelona, Spain, July 25, 2019. VOA

Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents, researchers said Monday.

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery.

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona could prevent 667 premature deaths every year if it created 503 “superblocks” as first proposed.

The superblocks — which keep cars out of designated areas in the city and develop public space in streets — have been complex to roll out, with only six put in place so far.

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents. Pixabay

“What we want to show with this study is that we have to go back and put the citizen at the center of … urban plans, because the health impacts are quite considerable,” said lead author and ISGlobal researcher Natalie Mueller.

As a city with the highest traffic density in Europe, Barcelona also needed to make it easier for people to commute in from the wider metropolitan area by public transport, she added.

The projected reduction in deaths from the superblocks plan would be achieved mainly as a result of a 24% decrease in air pollution from nitrogen oxide (NO2), along with lower traffic noise and urban heat, the study said.

Data released Friday from the Barcelona Public Health Agency showed air pollution accounted for 351 premature deaths in the city in 2018, around the same as in 2017.

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Motor vehicles generated the main pollutant, with almost half the city’s population regularly exposed to NO2 levels above the safe limit set by the World Health Organization, the city council said.

From January 2020, Barcelona will implement low-emission zones on weekdays, keeping 125,000 vehicles out of the city.

The city council will also declare a climate emergency including a package of urgent measures to cut down on private vehicle use and boost public transport, among other actions.

It has already extended cycle paths and upgraded its shared bike scheme, while shrinking on-street parking.

 

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery. Pixabay

‘Courage’ needed

Barcelona City Hall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it aimed to start drafting plans for three new superblocks shortly, as well as launching public consultations for others.

The ISGlobal study found that, besides reducing deaths, a full roll-out of the superblocks project would increase life expectancy by almost 200 days on average per inhabitant, and generate an annual economic saving of 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

The superblocks have sparked opposition in some local areas, notably among small traders who fear they could deter customers.

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But Mueller said the concept was similar to banning smoking in bars and restaurants, which was initially unpopular but quickly accepted once people realized the benefits.

“Even if they don’t see it in the beginning, often in the end they are quite happy,” she said, noting the need for “courage” in public policy making. (VOA)