Air Quality

News about aviation and air quality

UK Chief Medical Officer says people’s health is being damaged by exposure to too much air, noise and light pollution

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has said people in the UK are being exposed to a daily cocktail of pollution - from noise pollution, air pollution and light pollution) that may be having a significant impact on their health, and on the NHS.Dame Sally said major industries should take more responsibility for the pollution they cause, and that there was enough evidence to suggest action had to be taken. Her report "Health Impacts of All Pollution - what do we know?" says: "Major infrastructure projects are making construction noise a semi-permanent feature of the urban sound environment" ... "Noise acts as a psychosocial stressor, and the psychological reaction to it is influenced strongly by a number of personal, situational and environmental factors." The section by Professor Stephen Stansfield says:  "In 2012, 83% of a survey sample in the UK reported they heard road traffic noise, 72% aircraft noise and 48% noise from building, construction and road works at home in the last 12 months.  48% reported that their home life was “spoiled to some extent” by environmental noise." ..."Short term effects of noise on sleep include impaired mood, increased daytime sleepiness, and impaired cognitive performance."

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UK Government loses 3rd air pollution case brought by ClientEarth, as judge rules air pollution plans ‘unlawful’

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have won a 3rd case against the UK government over the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution. In a ruling handed down at the High Court in London, Judge Mr Justice Garnham declared the government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area is unlawful.  He ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities as soon as possible – as 12 of the 45 are projected to have legal levels by the end of 2018. He said: "The Environment Secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely."  This will be of great embarrassment to ministers, as it is the third time that they have lost an air pollution court battle. ClientEarth commented:  “The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over 8 years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough ... government must now do all it can to make that happen quickly.”  The area around Heathrow has high NO2 pollution levels, often over the legal limit,  and it is unlikely that there could be a 3rd runway without a serious risk of air quality deteriorating.

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Briefing from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on the Heathrow consultations

eathrow has a current consultation, on its runway plans, which closes on 28th March. People are advised, if they send in a response, to make sure their submission is not taken as tacit agreement with the 3rd runway. The No 3rd Runway Coalition has put together a 2 page briefing, advising people about the many areas in which the consultation is inadequate, and suggesting a list of issues that remain unaddressed by Heathrow. Just some of the issues where the consultation fails are: - No clarity on plans for road and rail access and no commitment to pay for them. - No assessment of cost of moving the M25 nor a traffic impact assessment whilst construction takes place. - No assessment of the impact of construction of local air quality. - No assessment of impact on assets of national importance (parks and open spaces) from potentially being overflown for 12-hour periods with no respite from noise.  On questions people should ask, just some are:  - Why does the current Heathrow consultation on expansion include proposals for a shorter runway that have not been considered by the Airports Commission nor included in the Airports NPS?  - What assessment has been made of the financial cost of the proposals to move the M25 or put it into a tunnel? - What assessment has been made of the impact on local roads of a potential 50% increase in the level of freight handled by Heathrow?  And there are many more. See the full briefing here

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Grayling makes key admissions on serious problems with a 3rd Heathrow runway, at Transport Committee hearing

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, made several assertions when he appeared before the inquiry on the Airports National Policy Statement, held by the Transport Select Committee on 7th February.  When questioned about Heathrow's regional connectivity, he confirmed that many of the domestic routes, promised by Heathrow, would not be commercially viable and would require taxpayer funded Public Service Obligation (PSO) subsidy orders, if they were to ever materialise.  Grayling also confirmed that, although up to 121,000 residents around the airport would be expected to suffer the impact of the further air pollution concentrations, likely to flow from the extra flights required to meet the DfT's own recently updated passenger demand forecasts, the government was yet to undertake any work to assess those impacts. Mr Grayling also confirmed that there would be a 'real risk' of non-compliance on air quality, were Heathrow to expand, and that the Government's own analysis expects that risk to be heightened in the years 2026 – 2030.  He also confirmed that the 3rd runway would mean a reduction in respite from noise, for adversely impacted residents. Details with extracts from transcripts at the link below.  Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway coalition commented on the NPS that "To proceed on the basis of evidence that unravels, on scrutiny, would simply be unacceptable".

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Study by Kings College and Imperial College finds PM2.5 air pollution may harm babies before birth, raising risk of low birth weight

Air pollution by PM2.5 particulates may be harmful to babies even before they are born. This is the finding of a new study (published in the BMJ)  by researchers at Imperial College and Kings College, London, among others. The PM2.5 particles are so tiny they can easily enter the smallest airways in the lungs, and get into the bloodstream. The researchers, using subjects from London, calculated mothers’ exposure to air pollution and traffic noise in various parts of the city from 2006 to 2010. Then they amassed data on birth weights of 540,365 babies born during those years to women who lived in those areas. The average PM2.5 pollution exposure was 14 micrograms per cubic meter. The researchers found that for each 5 microgram per cubic meter increase in PM 2.5, the risk of low birth weight increased by 15%. Low birth weight is a predictor of an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and hypertension in later life. It is considered that there is no safe lower level for PM2.5 pollution, though the EPS in the USA uses a standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over 3 years, and the WHO 10 micrograms as a limit. The lead author of the study said in London: "The current limits are not protecting pregnant women, and they’re not protecting unborn babies.”

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4 main councils opposing Heathrow 3rd runway say it is unbuildable, due to noise and air pollution

Councils opposed to expansion at Heathrow have told the Transport Select Committee (TSC) inquiry into the Airports NPS that the most recent evidence published by the Government continues to demonstrate that a 3rd Heathrow runway could not be built without causing unacceptable air and noise pollution. They say that if ministers continue to support a 3rd runway, it will blight the area around the airport while failing to solve what they see as a "need" for extra airport capacity in the South East.  The councils point out that the DfT's 2nd consultation on the NPS fails to show how, with a new runway, the airport could meet air quality limits in an area where pollution levels are deteriorating. Councillor Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "... it is clear that a third Heathrow runway is not deliverable within the new timescale of an opening in 2026. The shorter the timescale the more likely that illegal air pollution will result."  The councils have also warned the TSC that the Government’s refusal to allow more time for consultation on the new evidence (just 8 weeks, ending on 19th December) "supports the view that the Secretary of State has effectively made up his mind to support Heathrow and that this is affecting the fairness of the consultation."

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ClientEarth action means UK government will face 3rd court hearing – before February – over UK air pollution

A High Court judge has ordered a hearing in ClientEarth’s latest case against the UK Government, over illegal and harmful levels of air pollution in the country. Reflecting the urgency of the situation, Mr Justice Nicklin has expedited the case and it will be heard in the High Court before 23rd February next year.  This will be the 3rd such case against the government. After ClientEarth’s victories in the previous two, the Court ordered ministers to produce new plans to bring air pollution to within legal levels as soon as possible. This 3rd case challenges elements of the court-ordered plan produced by ministers after ClientEarth’s 2nd case in 2016. The government's current plans are too weak and too vague, and mean UK pollution levels will remain too high for years. CEO of ClientEarth, James Thornton said: “The government’s persistent failure to deal with air pollution in this country is nothing short of a scandal.” The grounds in ClientEarth’s case include the backtracking of the latest plan on previous commitments to order 5 cities to introduce clean air zones by 2020; and the plan does not require any action in 45 local authorities in England, despite them having illegal levels of air pollution. ClientEarth says the UK needs a national network of clean air zones.

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Mayor’s Draft London Plan, out to consultation, adamant that aviation’s noise, CO2 and air pollution stay within limits

The Mayor of London has put out for consultation the New Draft London Plan (ends 2 March 2018). There is an extensive section on aviation, with the Mayor adamant that the aviation sector, and any airport expansion, must stay within environmental limits. The Policy T8 Aviation (P 433 of the consultation document) sets out core principles. These include:   D. The Mayor will oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport unless it can be shown that no additional noise or air quality harm would result, and that the benefits of future regulatory and technology improvements would be fairly shared with affected communities.  E. All airport expansion proposals should demonstrate how public transport and other surface access networks would accommodate resulting increases in demand alongside forecast background growth; this should include credible plans by the airport for funding and delivery of the required infrastructure.  F. Proposals that would lead to changes in airport operations or air traffic movements must take full account of their environmental impacts and the views of affected communities. Any changes to London’s airspace must treat London’s major airports equitably when airspace is allocated.  And C - the environmental impacts of aviation must be fully acknowledged and the aviation industry should fully meet its external and environmental costs particularly in respect of noise, air quality and climate change ...

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Slough invites comment on its air pollution strategy – but gagging agreement prevents much mention of Heathrow …

Slough residents are being asked for their views on the draft Slough Low Emission Strategy (LES). Slough has high levels of air pollution that affect the health of residents. While several factors contribute to the borough’s air quality, the emissions from road transport vehicles are the most significant source - and much of this traffic is Heathrow-related. The strategy says it "recognises the challenges and opportunities that may arise from the construction of a 3rd runway at Heathrow." The Slough council draft LES supports its new transport strategy and forms part of the Slough Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP). It lays out an integrated, year on year plan to improve air quality up to 2025, "reducing vehicle emissions by accelerating the uptake of cleaner fuels and technologies."  The Slough Cabinet member for environment and leisure, said: “The health and wellbeing of our residents and the people who visit and work in Slough is paramount ...."  The strategy says it will "Link and compliment with a potential Ultra-Low Emission Zone at Heathrow." Slough signed an agreement with Heathrow in mid 2015, to get benefits from a runway, provided they always back the runway. "1.5  Slough Council’s Cabinet commits to publicly support the expansion of Heathrow Airport with immediate effect and until Heathrow is granted the DCO. " The council does not dare to complain!

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Michael Gove announces plans to consult on a new, independent body for post-Brexit UK environmental standards

Plans to consult on the creation of a new, independent body that would hold Government to account for upholding environmental standards in England after the UK leaves the EU have been set out by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.  He says Brexit gives the UK the opportunity to put the environment at the heart of policy making, while ensuring vital protections for our landscapes, wildlife and natural assets are not only maintained but enhanced. To help deliver a "Green Brexit", ministers will consult on a new independent, statutory body to advise and challenge government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation – stepping in when needed to hold these bodies to account and enforce standards. A consultation on the specific powers and scope of the new body will be launched early in 2018. Gove said:  "We will deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced. ... we are setting out our plans to ensure the powerful are held to account."  Currently environmental decisions made in the UK – from improving air and water quality to protecting endangered species – are overseen by the European Commission, which monitors targets, scrutinises new legislation and takes action against illegal behaviour. The UK must ensure that key environmental principles such as the polluter pays underpin policy making.

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