We have suffered poor air quality across south east England for days. The authorities warned older people and people with cardiovascular problems to stay indoors. Ambulance call-outs in London rose by 14 per cent, and David Cameron abandoned his usual morning jog, describing conditions as, ‘Unpleasant, but it’s a naturally occurring weather phenomenon’.
In West Sussex, poor air quality in Storrington and Cowfold has been a concern for years, featuring regularly in the WSCT, but air pollution is widespread.
400,000 people across the EU die each year because of air pollution, including 29,000 in the UK. Public health suffers, with rising costs to health care and the economy. Estimates for total health-related costs from air pollution range from €330 to 940 billion per year.
More deaths are due to poor air quality than to road traffic accidents, making it Europe’s top environmental cause of early death.
Air pollution causes lost working days, with vulnerable groups such as children, asthmatics and the elderly worst affected. It also damages ecosystems through excess nitrogen pollution and acid rain.
In February, the European Commission began legal action against the UK for failing to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution, despite 15 years of warnings. Britain has been singled out for ‘persistent’ breaches of the air quality directive and failing to meet agreed targets.
Other EU member states are also falling short of both agreed EU air quality standards and the guidelines of the UN World Health Organization.
Air pollution does not respect national boundaries! The current pollution was created in the UK and mainland Europe. It is exacerbated by dust from Saharan Africa and weather conditions. However, significant and damaging pollution will remain in the air we breathe when the weather changes. Experts believe we should be concerned about this general level of air pollution on the health of residents.
I am ashamed that the country that introduced the Clean Air Act of 1956 is subject to legal action by the European Commission for its failure to deal with its dirty air in 2014. But I’m glad the European Commission is there to take action to force the UK to tighten up our rules, and to take the appropriate enforcement, given that successive British governments have failed to do so.
Horsham Liberal Democrats
Comptons Lane, Horsham