Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Significant UK Air Quality Improvements Over Past 40 Years Cut Death Rates

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Policies to improve air quality in the UK over the past 40 years have
led to significant reductions in pollution and associated mortality
rates, a new study has found.

Research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology charted the
levels of emissions of a variety of air pollutants in the UK between
1970 and 2010 – a period in which there was a raft of national and
European legislation to tackle pollution. The scientists say their study
is ground-breaking due to the long timeframe studied and the removal of
weather factors from modelling, meaning any changes in air pollution
can be directly attributed to emission levels.

They found that over the 40-year period, total annual emissions of
PM2.5 (fine particulate matter), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide
(SO2) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) in the UK all
reduced substantially – by between 58% and 93%. Emissions of ammonia
(NH3) fell by 17% between 1970 and 2010 but have increased slightly in
recent years.

Based on these reduced emissions levels, the study estimated that
mortality rates attributed to PM2.5 and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide)
pollutants that increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular
diseases declined by 56% and 44%, respectively, in the UK over the
40-year period. The estimated mortality rate related to pollution from
ground-level ozone (O3) – which can damage the lungs – fell by 24%
between 1990 and 2010, following a significant rise in the 20 years
prior to that.

However, scientists involved in the research stress that tackling
air pollution in the UK remains an ongoing challenge. Nitrogen dioxide
concentrations are still often above legal limits in many urban areas
and levels of ammonia emissions are increasing.

Edward Carnell of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, lead
author of the study, said: “Technology advances over the past 40 years,
such as the three-way catalytic converter for cars and equipment to
reduce sulphur and nitrogen dioxide emissions from large power plants
have contributed to significant reductions in emission levels and
therefore improved public health. However, it is legislation that has
driven these technological improvements.

“Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of a series of policies
at UK and European level since 1970 and this research supports
policy-makers’ efforts to continue implementing much-needed measures to
further improve air quality.”

The 40-year period investigated by this study saw the implementation
of landmark policies on controlling air pollution. These included the
1979 UN Air Convention, major UK legislation such as the Clean Air Act
1993, Environment Act 1995 and several Air Quality Standards
Regulations, plus a series of EU directives relating to different
pollutants.

Emissions of ammonia, mainly from agriculture, have so far not been a
target of stringent legislation. Ammonia is released into the air when
manure, slurry and fertiliser are applied to agricultural land. Together
with nitrogen oxides from traffic and domestic stoves, for example, it
can form fine particles that affect air quality in urban areas far away
from the source. In addition to posing a risk to human health, ammonia
pollution affects water and soil quality and therefore animal and plant
life.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, said: “We have taken huge
strides in tackling air quality over the last 40 years, and this
research shows our actions are producing results.

“But we know there is a lot more to do. That is why our landmark
Clean Air Strategy addresses all sources of air pollution. We have clear
plans in place to tackle roadside nitrogen emissions and agricultural
ammonia, and are working closely with industry, local authorities and
other government departments to accelerate progress”.

Dr Stefan Reis of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), a
senior author of the study, added: “Ammonia contributes not only to
threats to human health, but also causes biodiversity loss. However, for
the past 30 years, it has been the ‘forgotten pollutant’.

“Therefore, we were very pleased to see Defra’s new Clean Air
Strategy aim for a 16 per cent reduction of UK ammonia emissions by 2030
(compared with 2005 levels), to fulfil commitments under the European
National Emission Ceilings Directive. This landmark strategy proposes
regulations and financial support, which, if adopted, would
substantially reduce UK ammonia emissions, bringing substantial benefits
for both for vulnerable ecosystems and human health.”

Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in
Edinburgh, one of the co-authors of the study, said: “This study
highlights the substantial improvements in air quality we have
experienced over four decades, as well as the risks that air pollution
still poses to public health in the UK. Concerted action is needed by
the Government, local authorities, businesses and individuals to further
improve air quality and protect human health.”

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)


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