Archives for category: Pollution

An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

The air we breathe is a hugely important issue for Birmingham – in fact, around 900 premature deaths a year in the city can be attributed to poor air quality.

Izzy Knowles, Chair of the Moseley Forum, writes about a meeting on Tuesday 28th March – 7.30PM at the Moseley Exchange, 149-153 Alcester Road, Moseley Birmingham, B13 8JP

Anne Shaw, Assistant Director for Transportation and Connectivity will be this year’s guest speaker at the Moseley Forum Annual General Meeting. She will reflect upon the work Birmingham City Council is doing towards introducing a Clean Air Zone as well as the implications of a High Court ruling regarding the Government’s air quality plans.

Izzy continues:

We will be exploring:

  • What are the main sources of air pollution in Moseley
  • What we can do to help reduce air pollution levels
  • What can be done specifically in Moseley

If you have any questions on air pollution in Moseley, please send us an email in advance to moseleyforum@gmail.com or come prepared on the day.

We hope that you can join us and help shape the future of air quality in Moseley.

 

 

 

Birmingham traffic

George Monbiot looked for a summary – in clear and simple language – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, but he could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns he consulted. So he wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.

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What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children

Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.

The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.

By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.

Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:

-It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.

-It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.

-It can damage the development of their brains. Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.

-It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.

-It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.

-It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.

-Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.

-Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.

We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal. And promoted c 2000:

Together we can sort this out, and protect our children from harm.

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The information sources for this factsheet can be found at https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/6/EHP299.acco.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825441, http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792 and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/the-truth-about-londons-air-pollution

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The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the leaders of Derby, Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton have written to Theresa May urgently calling for:

  • making vehicle manufacturers more accountable for emissions – with a zero-tolerance approach to malpractice, following the recent Volkswagen scandal;
  • national minimum emissions standards for private hire vehicles to ensure local requirements are not undermined;
  • greater regulation powers over the use of diesel generators;
  • a new 21st century Clean Air Act which will update existing legislation;
  • enshrining the ‘right to clean air’ in law after the UK leaves the European Union; and
  • unlocking new powers for local authorities, particularly regarding limiting construction and river emissions.

The letter describes the government’s current £3 million fund for local authorities to clean up their air as “woefully inadequate” and criticises the uncertainty around funding for transport schemes for preventing accurate and detailed planning in the long-term. It explains that:

“Local authorities need government to devolve powerful fiscal incentives such as Vehicle Excise Duty and create a national diesel vehicle scrappage fund”.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As city leaders, we are doing what we can to tackle this problem, but the fact is we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs and lasting progress will only be made if national government matches the ambitious action we are taking. The time for urgent action is now.”

Councillor John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Air pollution is now a public health crisis in this country and we need real leadership from the Government. Our towns and cities are keen to tackle this issue but we must be given the tools and funding needed to secure the future health of our citizens. The time for action is now.”

Following the recent High Court ruling against the government previous plan, a consultation on a new national air quality plan to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide as soon as possible.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Energy and Environment manifesto acknowledges that 29,000 people die early every year because of polluted air and one of his eight campaign proposals is for “Cleaner air – tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full   independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution”.

The government has agreed to improve their plan to curb emissions after a High Court ruling. Documents revealed during the case showed the Treasury had blocked plans to charge diesel cars to enter towns and cities blighted by air pollution, concerned about the political impact of angering motorists.

Following December’s review of the high incidence of ill-health and premature death in Birmingham and other cities, The Times today reports that nitrogen oxides from diesel engines are one of the main pollutants, inflaming the lungs, causing respiratory diseases such as asthma and are linked to a raised risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Data from King’s College London showed that Brixton Road in south London breached nitrogen dioxide pollution limits for the entire year in the first five days of 2017.

Pollution also increases the risk of dementia for those living near a busy road, according to a study published this week.

Research published in the Lancet followed ‘emerging evidence’ which suggested that living near major roads might adversely affect mental activity. As little is known about its relationship with the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, funded research investigating this association. It involved nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. The abstract (link above) describes the method used and gives the information that 243,611 cases of dementia were diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads. Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:

  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m

No association was found with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

As the BBC website reported, the Canadian analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic. It added that the researchers adjusted the data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking.

Whilst celebrating Birmingham City Council’s award which will be used to provide ‘state-of-the-art’ hydrogen fuel cell buses, more rapid and effective political action will be taken only when public awareness rises. To this end, a few references to the region’s research into cleaner modes of transport by road, rail and water follow:

oOOo

 air-pollution-brum

West Midlands is in breach of legal air pollution limits causing over 1000 deaths each year.

The Mail quotes a statement by Public Health England that almost 1,500 people in the West Midlands are dying from pollution each year: 520 excess deaths in Birmingham, 168 in Coventry, 173 in Dudley, 198 in Sandwell, 107 in Solihull, 155 in Walsall and 139 in Wolverhampton.

anne-shawAnne Shaw, assistant director for transportation and connectivity, reflects on items in the press over the past week about how the Government is responding to air quality issues. She writes:

The air we breathe is a hugely important issue for Birmingham – in fact, around 900 premature deaths a year in the city can be attributed to poor air quality. Transport is by far the biggest contributor to air quality problems in Birmingham and taking action to address this issue is a priority for the council. If we are to make a positive difference to the people who live in, work in and visit this city, we cannot afford to stand by and do nothing.

Birmingham is one of five cities required by the Government to implement a Clean Air Zone by 2020 to ensure compliance with UK and EU air quality legislation. Post-Brexit, the EU 2008 Directive will be enshrined in UK law so the legal requirement to comply will still exist.

The High Court ruling, however, has stated that cities should be compliant in the shortest possible time, rather than setting a deadline, effectively reinforcing the importance of addressing this issue. This ruling effectively reinforces the importance of addressing the issue of air quality and that action is required sooner rather than later.

We will continue with the work we are currently doing to understand how a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham will operate, while taking into account any changes which may arise as Defra’s plans are updated in the coming weeks as a result of the ruling. We are also looking at a package of wider measures that will assist with improving air quality to accelerate outcomes. A motion passed by the council last week made clear that any decision about what sort of Clean Air Zone is required for Birmingham should be based on evidence and we are undertaking a feasibility study to produce this.

The most important thing will be to ensure that this will meet the desired health benefits for the city, as well as support for small and medium-sized businesses, and specifically taxi and private hire businesses, as we work towards a Clean Air Zone. Once this study is completed, and we also know the results of Defra’s consultation and details of its updated plans, we will be able to put forward our own specific proposals for Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, as well as carrying out a full public consultation.

Our congested city

traffic-city-centre

It was reported yesterday that Parisians can use public transport free of charge for the second day running due to a spike in air pollution and some cars have been barred from the roads.

Next post: some action being taken in the region’s universities and industry to reduce transport-based pollution.

 

 

 

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A study by Public Health England has warned that outdoor air pollution is responsible for an estimated 520 deaths a year in Birmingham alone (Birmingham Mail).

Nationwide it is contributing to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The Financial Times reports findings that air pollution is bad for the lungs and that new research suggests it is also causing more car accidents.

In one area covering west London, as many as four extra traffic accidents a day could be triggered by a spike in dirty air levels, according to a working paper which may be read here. Research by the author, Lutz Sager, an environmental economist who works in the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, suggests that even a small rise in the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide — just 1 microgramme per cubic metre — is enough to increase the average number of accidents each day by 2%, with cities suffering the biggest effects.

One area with some of the highest levels of pollution, covering west London, has an average of 86 car accidents a day. Mr Sager said his research showed that a 30% rise in nitrogen dioxide from average levels led to another four accidents a day. He cites research showing that students do worse on tests when there are higher amounts of air pollution in the room. He suspects that such students and also drivers in highly polluted areas “feel more tired or are less focused, or have a slower reaction time.”

A 1999 European Union directive set legal limits for nitrogen dioxide levels, which came into force in 2010. Six years later, these limits are still being exceeded in many places across Europe. Europe’s cities have some of the highest NO2 levels in the world, because a much higher proportion of cars run on diesel than in most other countries.

The British government has not acted on rulings by the UK Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice

In the UK, 37 out of 43 zones breach the limits. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that national courts can and should ensure that governments act to get air pollution below legal limits “as soon as possible”. The case then went back to the UK’s Supreme Court, which in April 2015 ordered the UK’s environment minister to take “immediate action” by preparing and consulting the public on an air quality action plan in the shortest possible time. Despite this ruling, the New Scientist reports that the British government proposals published in December did not envisage compliance in the worst affected areas until 2025.

In a case which began this week, a group of lawyers from ClientEarth is asking the High Court to order ministers to produce a better plan for improving air quality.

The case concerns levels of nitrogen dioxide, an invisible gas produced mainly by road traffic; high levels of nitrogen dioxide shorten lives, by increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disorders.

99-3

 How many will die before government enforces the law?

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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?

 

 

 

On two occasions recently, expert speakers on different subjects have been invited to Birmingham city centre by different organisations and – despite publicity – had tiny audiences, one consisting of two people and the other of seven. Solihull is similarly apathetic – see honourable exceptions in the end-note. 

Many causes for concern include: 

  • small amounts (barring accidents) of fluoride, a toxic substance (see Royal Society of Chemistry) added to our water supply – though not in wealthier London and the South.

fluorosis-dentalFluorosis (left) is the mildest affliction; last year, research published in the BMJ,  found that medical practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are almost twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area).

The lead author was Professor Stephen Peckham, from the Centre for Health Service Studies (University of Kent).

  • high levels of air pollution leading to early death or chronic disability.

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  • New procedures allowing unlabelled radioactive material to be carried on our roads and sometimes by rail – see parliamentary evidence. (Below formerly labelled vehicles).

nuclear-mareials-lorry-labelled

 How many people will attend the BMI meeting on this subject?

Endnote:

In contrast to this apathy, residents in Moseley, Stirchley and Bournville turn out in good numbers- an average of 50 people – at meetings in the vicinity.

Will those who show no interest in these matters complain the loudest if a radioactive leak happened near them or if they were made aware that their health problems were caused or exacerbated by air pollution or fluoridation? Will they chase compensation, instead of addressing the roots of the problem – a political regime which gives lip service to concern about these conditions but allows the profiting industries to go ahead unchecked.

 floral-tribute

Sentiment rules: if a child is knocked down in the street strangers hurry to deposit flowers; if his death is due to an air-pollution related condition it goes un-noticed.

 

 

 

BMI best

                                   Wednesday 21st September 2016

The John Peek Room, Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street,

Birmingham, B3 3BS

Rob Edwards (freelance environmental journalist with the Sunday HeraldThe Guardian and New Scientist) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons UK, have published a report on the safety of the nuclear weapons convoys that routinely travel on British roads. 

This report presents new research into local authorities’ knowledge of and forward planning for an accident involving a nuclear weapon convoy and our own scenario modelling for the potential fallout from an accident both at a national level and locally in five case-study areas: Birmingham, Preston, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Wetherby.

Tea and coffee will be served from 09.30. The event will begin at 10.00 with a presentation on the report from Rob Edwards followed by short talks on nuclear weapon convoys and their potential health impacts. There will then be time for a question and answer session with the audience. 

Contact matt@icanw.org  / 07515895998 or book via this link. 

The subject was covered on this site in March: https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/do-birmingham-residents-commuters-and-council-know-about-nuclear-hazards-on-the-regions-road-and-rail/ And earlier https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/councillor-anita-ward-a-disappointing-encounter/; https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/our-nuclear-free-local-authority/