Every Breath we Take

COMMON POLLUTANTS

NITROGEN DIOXIDE AS A POLLUTANT


Compliance with Defra limits

The UK limits are measured in units of micrograms/cubic metre (µ/m3) not parts per billion (ppb). 1ppb=1.9125 micrograms/cubic metre. Exposure is limited to 40µ/m3 on a yearly average and c.100 µ/m3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times per year.
WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 40 micrograms/cubic metre (20.92 ppb) and a 1 hour mean of 200 micrograms/cubic metre (104.6 ppb). It is important to note that the UK’s Clean Air Strategy should take us a substantial way towards achieving the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 across the country by 2030.

Health Impact

There is good evidence that nitrogen dioxide is harmful to health. The European Environment Agency reported that the UK had 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 from nitrogen dioxide. The most common short-term outcomes are respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough. Nitrogen dioxide inflames the lining of the lung and reduces immunity to lung infections such as bronchitis. Studies also suggest that the health effects are more pronounced in people with asthma compared to healthy individuals.

What causes nitrogen dioxide?

Road transport is estimated to be responsible for about 50% of total emissions of nitrogen oxides, which means that nitrogen dioxide levels are highest close to busy roads and in large urban areas. Diesel cars create more nitrogen dioxide. Gas boilers in buildings are also a source of nitrogen dioxide.

Prevention/Mitigation of nitrogen dioxide

Reducing traffic would make a major impact on nitrogen dioxide levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres. Out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to locations by low emission vehicles would reduce this source.

Energy efficient housing stock, heated by local heat pumps replacing gas boilers, would reduce the levels of this harmful pollutant.

PM 10 AS A POLLUTANT
Compliance with Defra limits

An annual mean of 40 micrograms/cubic metre, together with levels not to exceed 50 micrograms/cubic metre more than 35 times a year. WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 20 micrograms/cubic metre and a 24 hour mean of 50 micrograms/cubic metre. The UK’s Clean Air Strategy should take us a substantial way towards achieving the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 across the country by 2030.

Health Impact of PM10

PM10 particles can settle in the airway and deep in the lungs and cause health problems. The health effects of particle air pollution have been widely studied, and include premature death and the worsening of heart and lung disease, often increasing admissions to hospital.
In 2008, the UK’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reported that the loss of life from particulates is equivalent to 29,000 deaths. More recently studies are investigating the possible link between poor air quality and outcomes such as low birth weight infants and neurological health.

What causes PM10?

Particles originating from road traffic include carbon emissions from engines, small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking as well as dust from road surfaces. Others include material from building and industry
Wood burning and fires are a source of PM10 particles, as are agricultural emissions where ammonia is converted into particles of ammonium salts. Nitrogen dioxide also reacts with hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight to create ozone, and contributes to the formation of particulates.

Whilst nitrogen dioxide is predominantly local, particulates such as dust, pollen, sea salt, sand and soil can be carried by the wind and therefore some of the source are national and international.

How to reduce PM10 levels

Reducing traffic would make a major impact on PM10 levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres and therefore out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to town locations by low emission vehicles would remove this source.

Public education on the adverse health impact of fires and wood burning would reduce particulate levels.

Manure management techniques such as those practiced in the Netherlands have been shown to reduce particulates. Local farming practices on manure management should be investigated for areas of improvement.

PM 2.5 POLLUTION
Compliance with Defra limits

The UK limit for PM 2.5 particulates is an annual mean of 25 micrograms/cubic metre. WHO advises guidelines of an annual mean of 10 micrograms/cubic metre and a 24 hour mean of 25 micrograms/cubic metre. The UK’s Clean Air Strategy should take us a substantial way towards achieving the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 across the country by 2030.

Health impact

PM 2.5 particles can easily work their way into human lungs, bloodstream, brain and other organs which can trigger asthma attacks, allergic responses, heart attacks and stroke.
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The health effects of particle air pollution have been widely studied, and include premature death and the worsening of heart and lung disease, often increasing admissions to hospital. In 2008, the UK’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reported that the loss of life from particulates is equivalent to 29,000 deaths. More recently studies are investigating the possible link between poor air quality and outcomes such as low birth weight infants and neurological health.

Particles originating from road traffic include carbon emissions from engines, small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking as well as dust from road surfaces. Others include material from building and industry and agricultural emissions where ammonia is converted into ammonium salts particles.

In the UK, there are reported to be 1.5 million wood burning stoves in use, with around 200,000 more sold each year. The use of wood in domestic combustion activities accounted for 38 per cent of PM2.5 emissions in 2018. Most of these stoves are for pleasure, not for heating.

Whilst nitrogen dioxide is predominantly local, particulates such as dust, pollen, sea salt, sand, soot and soil can be carried by the wind and therefore some of the source is not local.

Ways to improve PM 2.5 levels

Reducing traffic would make a major impact on PM2.5 levels. Travel by petrol/diesel car should become the last option for travel after working from home, walking and cycling, electric bikes and cars, and public transport. HGV vehicles are a major source in town centres and therefore out of town offloading centres with last mile delivery to town locations by low emission vehicles would remove this source.

Public education on the adverse health impact of fires and wood burning, and in particular the impact on health of wood burning stoves would reduce particulate levels.

Manure management techniques such as those practised in the Netherlands have been shown to reduce particulates. Local farming practices on manure management should be investigated for areas of improvement.

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