Saturday, 28 January 2017

Pollution: What’s the answer?

Over the past two weeks Southern England has seen some of the worst pollution episodes since the early 1950’s. Seen in this instance is a useful word as it highlights why the government are so slow in putting an end to a scandal that is killing nearly as many people as smoking cigarettes’ – conveniently for them you can’t see the most deadly pollutants’!
In a presentation given to a meeting of the A27 Working group, Nigel Jenkins Principal Consultant with Ricardo Energy & Environment explained that air pollution ranked UK’s second biggest health risk – the deaths are shocking.

1.      Smoking 87,000 (2007)
2.      Air pollution 40,000 (2008)
3.      Obesity 9,000 (2007)
4.      Road accidents 2,200 (2009).

And the most vulnerable groups on the front line are people with: COPD, asthma, cardio-vascular disease, older people and the very young.
During this latest pollution episode the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated:
“For those parts of the country forecast to have very high levels of ambient air pollution, Public Health England is advising people to reduce physical exertion, particularly when outdoors and especially if they experience symptoms such as a cough or sore throat. Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, in areas where very high levels are recorded should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.”
This warning resulted in some schools either closing or keeping children in doors.
So what should be done along the Worthing – Lancing corridor, a highly populated area with many schools and rest homes close to it?
Clearly the first thing is to remove the most polluting vehicles from the road. This can be done by imposing a ‘Clean Air Zone’ meaning that to enter that zone a vehicle must exhibit a badge like this:

Indicating the vehicle has met the prescribed low emission test for that zone. Enforcement is done in a similar way already tried and tested with congestion zones.
Whilst to some this approach may seem harsh, the alternative is to reduce overall the amount of traffic that uses this residential road.
Those who have the political power must prove they have the health of the nation as their first priority by acting now. It’s no good hoping the wind will blow the problem away. Even if we had a force 10 gale blowing every day, with the amount of new housing going up (not to mention the IKEA superstore mooted for North Lancing) all the extra traffic that’s generated not only will make an at capacity A27 even more congested, no technical fix yet to be invented is likely to prevent the invisible toxic pollution cocktail.