UK Air Pollution – The Facts

The BBC have published several articles recently on air pollution under the emotive headline “So I can breathe”. But one by BBC Environment Analysis Roger Harrabin is actually quite accurate. It’s title is “How bad is air pollution in the UK?” and his answer to that is “Air pollution is a major contributor to ill health in the UK, but it’s hard to say exactly by how much”.

He says that dirty air does not kill people directly but reports that it is estimated that it shortens the lives of around 40,000 people every year – mainly those who already have heart or lung problems. How accurate are the media headlines about this he asks? He says that claming that pollution kills 40,000 people is just wrong and it’s also wrong to say pollution is rising. The 40,000 is also a statistical construct with a lot of uncertainty involved – it might a sixth as big – or twice as big.

Air pollution in the UK has been dropping, but in London recommended NOx levels are still regularly breached and levels at the roadside have barely dropped at all.

He says diesel cars are portrayed as the main villains and the biggest proportion of pollution does come from road transport in general. But if you look at Greater London, private diesel cars only contribute 11% of NOx. Lorries produce a similar amount and in central London only 5% of NOx comes from diesel cars while 38% comes from gas used in heating homes and offices.

Mr Harrabin does suggest some solutions to the problem which you can read in the full article here: It’s well worth reading as it debunks many of the myths spread by the Mayor of London, TfL and others.

If the Mayor persists in attacking diesel cars and other smaller vehicles while doing little about air pollution from heating, industrial processes and other big transport emitters such as HGVs, LGVs, buses and planes then he will be wasting our money.

Roger Lawson