Sunday, 20 May 2012

New plan to attack Brent's air pollution problem

The Green Party tried to make air pollution an issue at the GLA election with limited success - perhaps because it is what is often called an ' invisible menace'. Its impact on health occurs at an individual level and over the long-term so it is often not seen as an urgent issue. More visibly air quality and air pollution became a worry as a result of several big fires recently in the borough that released noxious smoke.

However, Brent Council recognises the seriousness of the problem and an Air Quality Action Plan 2012-2015 is on the agenda for Monday's Executive.

The accompanying report notes that levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates continue to exceed national air quality objectives in some areas of the borough and will not meet future targets. The aim of the new AQAP is to reduce levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and fine particulate matters (smaller than 10 microns) which are the key pollutants in Brent.

It is proposed that the Council should lobby the government over the relationship between licensing of waste sites and the achievement of air quality improvements reflecting the air pollution association with waste sites around Neasden Goods Yard. Air quality there breaches the daily mean air quality objectives and as one of the few in the country reporting such excesses could lead to sanctions from the European Union.  Brent has worked with waste operators and the Environment Agency to enclose the majority of dust generating activities on the site but they admit that a significant proportion of waste handling and transfer operations there still take place in the open air.

The Council estimate that fine particles have an impact equivalent to 133 premature deaths across the whole of Brent. They are unable to estimate the local impact around the Goods Yard as the standard estimating methods are not applicable to smaller populations.

The report notes that the most economically and socially deprived areas in the borough, the south of the borough as well as Stonebridge, Neasden and St Raphaels suffer the poorest air quality.

Worryingly DEFRA will no longer fund air quality monitoring and as a result Brent has reduced the number of its monitoring stations from six to three. The Council warn that there is a significant risk that DEFRA may not fund the costs of intensive cleaning and application of dust suppressants at Neasden Lane once the Olympic Games is over.

The 2012-15 Plan lists 15 actions and can be found HERE It includes integrating air quality improvements into local health plans, increasing the planting of trees in new developments, reviewing planing policies to safeguard against environmental impacts of new and existing waste facilities, reducing car use and congestion, a 10% reduction in business energy use, a 20% decrease in energy use in council housing stock and 25% in council emissions and a 10% reduction in emissions from major commercial fleet operations in the borough.

The aim is to have a holistic approach that fits with the framework of Brent's Climate Change Strategy.

I welcome these measures and hope that national and local government cuts will not prevent their effective implementation.  Air pollution apart from causing premature deaths also condemn some of the young and the vulnerable to regular occurrences of respiratory illnesses.

Children at Risk
  • Children are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution for several reasons related to their physical development and behaviour.
  • Children’s respiratory organs are not fully developed and thus are more vulnerable to toxic substances in the air.
  • Children have narrower airways that are more severely affected by the tissue inflammation that occurs due to air pollution.
  • Children have weaker immune systems that are more vulnerable to the foreign substances found in air pollution.
  • Children inhale more air (and more air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults.
  • Children often breathe through their mouths, rather than their noses. This route bypasses the cilia and mucous found in the nose that trap foreign particles in the air and stop them from entering the lungs.
  • Children do not recognize or acknowledge the effects of air pollution as quickly as adults. This may exacerbate the effects of air pollution, because symptoms are not treated as quickly.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

It's too late in the day to start waking up and showing responsibility.
the reality is Brent is dirty because the people living in it have made it dirty and the people that act as government and council are careless and incompetent beyond belief and so looking to them for answers is a complete waste of time.
you don't promote unclean practices such as smoking which then goes on to ruin the health and lives of millions and not expect to reap unpleasant side effects such as dirty streets and polluted environment.
also you don't promote obsession with materialism and again not expect to reap unpleasant-side effects such as pollution in the air and on the ground.
humans on whole have long abused the planet just like we have long abused each other with things like tobacco, drugs, alcohol, etc etc and again with the misuse of those things you always reap bad side effects.
the answer and solution is obvious but of course the politicians will close their eyes and ears to common sense.