Monday, May 13, 2013

Environment, Air Quality and Health

At the Sustrans Air Quality Champions training day last week we learned that the percentage of people rating the Environment as a major concern has been falling over recent years and now stands at only 8%. This is, or should be, a major worry for The Green Party as well as environmental campaign groups like ourselves. It means that the drip drip feed of the mainstream media is winning their propaganda war, for that is what it amounts to. The fact is that the environment is a major factor in the issues that people are identifying as major concerns, none more so than Health and Traffic Congestion.

Air quality, and obesity through lack of exercise, has a major impact on Health and costs the Health Service (paid for by you, the Taxpayer) billions of £s per year. Lack of effective action to make walking and cycling, in the face of the petrolhead lobby, more enjoyable and safe just results in a viscious cycle of more car use leading to more pollution which makes walking and cycling less attractive.

There are three air pollutants that the experts are worried about. Ozone, which we can’t do much about because it is a natural process. Nitrogen Dioxide, NO2, which is a toxic gas and Particulate Matter, PM10, which is basically dust.

In London, where there is little in the way of industrial processes, approximately two thirds of both NO2 and PM10 comes from ground based transport the majority of which is cars. The PM10 comes from wear and tear on the tyres and brake pads.

So, where there is a lot of road traffic we would expect the levels of these pollutants to be high. So, when you see someone jogging along Woodford Avenue, as I did while on the bus on my way to the training day, you have to wonder whether they know, and if they did, would they choose to jog somewhere else, like a park. They are making their lungs work harder and inhaling the pollutants at a much higher rate than if they were just ambling along to the bus stop. On the other hand, cyclists tend to know and stick to the back roads which makes the cycle lanes in Woodford Avenue pretty much pointless and a waste of taxpayer's money.

This is not an anti-car message. The car has it’s place and most of us need one for certain journeys. It is a campaign to make cars less polluting and to educate people about sensible use of cars and the dangers of, for example, leaving the engine idling whilst parked outside a primary school. Young children are much more susceptible to the harmful effects of these pollutants as their lungs are still developing and their breathing apparatus is much closer to the source (ground) than yours.

So, as these pollutants are pretty much invisible, we can’t see or smell them, how do we know if the air we are breathing is clean or polluted? Well, dotted around London we have Air Quality Measuring Stations.

They are all shown on the Kings College Air Quality Site and you can look at the data for each site. We undestand, although Redbridge Council has not yet confirmed, that these sites are funded by local councils at approximately £2,000 per site per annum. It also appears that two of the four sites in Redbridge have been closed down in the last 2-3 years due to withdrawal of funding. These are the stations at Fullwell Cross Roundabout (pictured) and in South Woodford at the A406 where it is 10 (TEN) lanes wide. We have asked Redbridge Council for an explanation. Both of these locations are outside London’s Low Emission Zone which was introduced in February 2008 and the data up to 2010/11 for both these sites show that they were exceeding recommended limits by quite some margin.

More to come on how to spot natural indicators of air quality …

Further reading:

Our Chair speaks at Area Committee 4

Children who live near busy roads may be at greater risk of developing diabetes later in life
Or perhaps go to school near a busy roundabout?

Engine idling in Havering will get you a PCN

Cheating on pollution

UK Government is breaking air pollution laws

British cities may have to ban cars to dramatically reduce harmful effects of air pollution

Illegal Air Pollution in London

Government to remove councils’ obligation to carry out air quality assessments

Redbridge bids for £100m to improve cycling infrastructure


  1. so Redbridge wont pay for the monitors any there any surprise,it wont admit that its got high pollution,just another one of its ploys to get what it wants,just like making car parks look underused by putting up the cost so they can build on them or make sports fields look underused so as that they can build on them,they have the opposite outlook when it comes to making up jobs,or paying 3rd partys or almo's (think thats spelt right),i do fear for this borough as i do the rest of the uk,just wander if those making these decisions in LBoR will see their grandchildren suffer the effects of the decisions thay make......or if they even care...

    1. They will reduce anything and everything with the sole exception of their over-inflated "allowances; and there are cabinet members in Redbridge who would flog off their own grannies if they thought the price was right.

      But take heart - just 373 days to the next council elections.

  2. we can elect all we want morris,the sad thing is they are all the same,,,,ive nearly given up and probably will not be using my vote.....
    may i take this opurtunity (oooo i sound like an mp)to say well done for 28.000 views on your blog BSide 21......the advertising agencys will be contacting you soon i reackon.......x

    1. I understand what you mean jkm. It's time for some genuine independents to be elected, but reality tells me it's unlikely to happen.

    2. Well, they have to stand first and there haven't been many in the past. However, we appear to have at least two, so far, for 2014.

  3. I see we have coucillors sussed, whatever their party. I vote for only one in the local elections, because I know he does some good. I don't vote for parties.

    Closing the air quality monitoring site at Fullwell Cross Roundabout is clearly to the advantage of the Council's appalling scheme to build flats on playing fields nearby. What can't be checked can't be moaned about. Disgusting decision.

    And don't forget asthma! That's all down to poor air quality too. Redbridge Council has no regard for the health of people living around here.

  4. Closing the air quality monitoring site at Fullwell Cross Roundabout is probably being done for the same reason that the air pollution monitoring facility near to NatWest Bank in Ilford Town Centre is no more... in both cases the information found was so bad that it suggested that there really is a serious problem and therefore "something needs to be done" to reduce the pollution.*

    The required solution is cleaner (preferably 100% electric) transport - but unlike the opening message in this article, I am pointing accusing fingers at transports which use heavy duty diesel engines, such as buses - and not just cars, although they too need cleaning up.

    To back up my suggestion that it is diesel transports which are most significantly at fault, I am quoting from a 2011 air pollution study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) on behalf of L.B. Wandsworth.

    The headline results from the study showed that buses contributed over two-thirds of NOx emissions and 21 percent of particulate (PM) emissions in Putney High Street despite making up only ten percent of vehicle flow. Overall, cars made up two-thirds of the total vehicle flow in the street and contributed to 14 percent of NOx emissions and 35 percent of PM emissions.

    The TRL report can be found here: (NB: You may need the Adobe Acrobat [or equivalent] reader to view this report).

    It is of course politically incorrect and even embarrassing for those in power to blame buses rather than private cars for the seriously polluted air which we have to breathe.


    *Reference: a report from about a decade ago entitled "Nitrogen Dioxide in the United Kingdom" issued by the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) for Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) which suggested that Ilford Broadway was the most polluted place for Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) in Great Britain (it was right at the top of the list) and that Fullwell Cross was No.15 in the list plus there was at least one more location in Redbridge in the list!
    In addition, a second list which detailed the number of instances when the pollution exceeded a trigger threshold also placed Ilford Broadway right at the very top and included Fullwell Cross at No.12!
    This reported cited heavy duty diesel engines as being the principal source of the most severe pollution.

  5. This is an issue that has been going on for 20 years. The Council's own existing data going back almost 10 years shows the extent of pollution in Fulwell Cross, consistently the worst in Redbridge:

    This will only get worse if Oakfields is removed from the Green Belt and the Urban Sprawl it prevents is allowed to happen.