phd-student-monitoring-emissionsProfessor Thorne’s colleague monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

As reported earlier this year a WHO study of air pollution was undertaken by an international team of scientists. Dr Annette Pruss-Ustun, a co-author, presented findings that countries around the world were spending millions of dollars each year treating lung disease, heart attacks and strokes exacerbated by air pollution and that  much of this money could be saved if governments reduced levels of soot and smog.

Today Pilita Clark of the FT points out that limits on particles above 2.5 micrometres, known as PM2.5, are met in much of the US, Canada and other industrialised countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Though the EU has pioneered many environmental policies, parts of the UK, France and Germany exceed WHO limits for PM2.5, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system.

According to the study more than 90% per cent of the UK’s population lives in areas where levels of air pollution exceed WHO limits. The higher levels of pollution in Europe could be due to the number of EU countries encouraging the use of diesel cars compared with North America. “Certain countries have a relatively old diesel car fleet that is heavily polluting,” she said. “In North America they have fewer diesel cars.”

There is a question mark over the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central platforms experienced by commuters like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system – road, rail and waterways.

In February we were told of research conducted by Professor John Thornes (Birmingham) finding almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform. The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”.

Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”.

Until then, how many people will contract lung disease, or have heart attacks and strokes due in large part to pollution generated by air, road and rail transport?