William Eichler 27 June 2019

Policies to clean up air pollution ‘effective’, research suggests

Policies to clean up air pollution in the UK over the past 40 years have led to significant reductions in human exposure to air pollution, research suggests.

A study by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has charted the levels of emissions of a variety of air pollutants in the UK between 1970 and 2010.

The results of the research revealed that the total annual emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) in the UK all ‘reduced substantially’.

This has meant that the number of deaths caused by exposure to air pollution has dropped by 44% and 56% for NO2 and PM2.5 respectively between 1970 and 2010.

However, the research, which was carried out in collaboration with the Institute of Occupational Medicine, University of Oxford, and University of Edinburgh, also found that emissions of ammonia (NH3) have not been declining substantially and have shown signs of a slight increase.

‘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,’ said Edward Carnell, lead author of the study.

‘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 Government today committed to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

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