London is set to introduce an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) today (8th April 2019) with the Mayor of London’s aim of ‘’improving the health of Londoners by cleaning up the city’s toxic air’’. This comes amid recent data from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory highlighting that there have been no significant improvements in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentrations in London between 2013 and 2016.
Our Senior Air Quality Consultant, James Browne, explains why Air Quality is such an important issue for London and the rest of the UK.
The ULEZ is a defined geographic area where there will be restricted access for certain classes of vehicles (criteria which is based on European emission standards), with the aim of improving air quality. From today until October 2021, this area will be the same as the existing congestion charge zone. Owners of vehicles (vans, lorries, coaches, buses, cars, motorbikes) which do not meet the criteria will have to pay a daily charge to enter the zone, which will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This measure can be seen as a positive step towards tackling poor air quality in London and reaching legal limits but it is not without its critics. It should also be noted that from October 2021, it is planned that ULEZ will be expanded to encompass the inner city area between the north and south circular roads.
However, today is a good opportunity to reflect that poor air quality is not just an issue for London. Across the United Kingdom high levels of air pollution, particularly in urban areas, are cause for concern. Authorities across the UK have action plans with the aim to improve air quality in their area. Some of the larger and most polluted areas have been required to declare Clean Air Zones (CAZ). In Manchester for example, the 10 councils which comprise the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have recently announced their Clean Air Plan which contains a CAZ. Some of the shortlisted measures include congestion deals, clean air zones and electric vehicle incentives.
These measures are being adopted nationally due to an increased awareness that exposure to high concentrations of pollutants, particularly NO2 and PM10 can affect human health with the young, elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions being the most vulnerable. Due to their size the smaller PM2.5 can be inhaled into the deepest parts of our lungs which can then cross into the blood stream. Emerging research associates exposure to PM2.5 with blocking arteries increasing the chances of stroke and heart disease. However, with children, consistently high exposure levels can affect their lung function and development of long term respiratory diseases such as Asthma.
Overall moving forward, it is vital that earlier engagement of air quality within a project is undertaken to ensure that the potential adverse impacts on health are addressed.
James Browne, Senior Air Quality Consultant, Stroma Built Environment
James and our Air Quality team are doing some fantastic work with projects around the country and in conjunction with bodies such as the Supply Chain Sustainability School. If you need support with Air Quality Assessments or Dust Monitoring on your existing or planned projects then please get in touch: