Dodgy UK air quality under MPs’ microscope

Has enough been done to cleanse British air of deadly pollution since the problem was last flagged up by concerned MPs in 2010? That’s what the members of parliament’s environmental […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Has enough been done to cleanse British air of deadly pollution since the problem was last flagged up by concerned MPs in 2010?

That’s what the members of parliament’s environmental watchdog are asking in a new inquiry launched today.

Four years ago they recommended six areas for improvement, including Defra’s strategy, more support for local authorities, bringing in Low Emissions Zones and boosting public awareness.

There are now around 300 sites across the UK which monitor air quality.

But MPs may not come across cheery results: two months ago the European Commission sent the UK a ‘Letter of formal notice’ for breaching limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 16 of 43 air zones around the country.

Recent figures flagged up by campaign group Clean Air in London linking air pollution to the top four reasons for male deaths and four of the top five reasons behind female deaths in London.

While Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has made scant reference to air pollution both in or out of the Commons.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley MP said: “Air pollution is thought to contribute to more deaths than passive smoking, traffic accidents or obesity, yet the UK is still breaching European safety limits nearly five years after EU fines were first threatened.

“We will now be examining what progress has been made by central and local Government in removing the most polluting vehicles from the road and encouraging cleaner forms of transport.”