Air Quality

News about aviation and air quality

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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ClientEarth launches new air pollution legal action against UK government

ClientEarth is taking legal action against the UK Government for a 3rd time, over its persistent failure to deal with illegal air pollution across the country. This comes just a year after ClientEarth’s High Court victory forcing ministers to develop plans to tackle the problem. The environmental lawyers said the Defra plans still fell far short of what was needed to bring air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible. ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said they had no choice but to take legal action, to get clarity from government. ClientEarth names the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Transport Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs in the Welsh Government as defendants. ClientEarth’s grounds for judicial review are: The latest plan backtracks on previous commitments to order 5 cities to introduce clean air zones by 2020;  2. The plan does not require any action in 45 local authorities in England, despite them having illegal levels of air pollution. 3. The plan does not require any action by Wales to bring down air pollution as quickly as possible. In order to avoid any further delay to ongoing work by Defra, DfT and local authorities, ClientEarth is not calling for the current plan to be overturned, but instead to be supplemented.

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Heathrow 3rd runway ‘could delay’ the UK’s air quality compliance

Heathrow’s 3rd runway could harm efforts to stay under EU air pollution limits, a report published by the government has warned. An assessment by engineering consultancy WSP of the government’s 2017 Air Quality Plan, which was published in July following several legal battles with lawyers ClientEarth, said the proposed runway affect UK compliance with the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive. If the runway opened between 2026 and 2030 it is unlikely that concentrations of NO2 in central London would have fallen sufficiently to remove the risk of Heathrow negatively impacting EU limit value compliance. With government forecasts on air passenger numbers, and a lot of new evidence on air pollution, the DfT had to publish a fresh consultation on the revised Airports National Policy Statement on the 3rd runway scheme. The government said it was on track to publish final proposals for expansion at Heathrow in the first half of 2018, before they are voted on in Parliament. Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Leader, said the fact the NPS consultation has had to be reopened shows the Government’s case remains deeply flawed. “It is difficult to see how a third runway can be delivered without breaching legal air pollution limits.

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Leader of Richmond Council: Government aviation strategy ignores Heathrow health impacts

The Leader of Richmond Council, commenting on the DfT's consultation on the draft aviation strategy (closed 13th October), says it tries to shut down any discussion on expansion at Heathrow and puts the demand for additional flights ahead of the health impact on communities affected by increased noise and worsening air quality. Leader Paul Hodgins, speaking on behalf of Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, said: “It is difficult to see what purpose the draft aviation strategy serves when, in it, the government is ignoring the problem of Heathrow. First we had a pro-Heathrow airport draft national policy statement with no details on flightpaths, out of date passenger demand figures, an economic case which doesn’t stand up and unattainable pollution limits. Now we have a national strategy that leaves out Heathrow.  Any serious attempt at a UK-wide policy must come before any policy on individual airports, including Heathrow."  He also said: “The Government should withdraw this partial and disingenuous strategy document, abandon its unjustified policy support for Heathrow and begin again with an approach that people can trust.”

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Heathrow expansion plan is reckless & shows shocking disregard for government health obligations

"The Government’s revised proposals for the expansion of Heathrow highlight how much damage would be caused by this reckless project. They reveal that Heathrow is already having a more detrimental impact on our air than we realised, with an estimated 86% of the toxic air in the surrounding area related to the airport — rather than the previously estimated 70%. It has also emerged that building a 3rd runway will increase toxic air pollution even more than originally predicted. As a result, the Government must rule out the possibility of a 3rd runway at Heathrow. But before the Gatwick PR machine leaps into action, it is worth pointing out that there is simply no need for a new runway in London. Every airport but one is operating under capacity, and the cases put forward by Gatwick and Heathrow to solve the manufactured “crisis” rely on vastly inflated job creation predictions. By continuing to pursue this strategy, the Government is displaying a shocking disregard for the UK’s moral obligation to tackle a genuine air pollution public health emergency."  Say the Green Party. And add in the Government’s inexplicable denial of information relating to the new flight paths that the new runway will create.

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