Air pollution kills more than road crashes as dangerously polluted sites increase 25 per cent in a year

June 8, 2018 2:20 PM
By Merilyn Canet
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Merilyn with Lorry
Sites with dangerous levels of air pollution have increased by 25 per cent in just one year according to figures released by Kent County Council.

At May's full council meeting, Cllr Antony Hook, Kent Liberal Democrats' spokesperson for economic development, asked Cllr Peter Oakford, Cabinet Member for strategic commissioning and public health, how many locations in the county have failed to meet recommended or legal standards of air quality levels.

The latest figures show there were 39 sites declared in Kent County in 2016, eight more than the 31 declared in 2015, an increase of 25 per cent. These 39 sites represent areas where air pollution levels breach legal safety levels, putting the public's health at risk.

A report published by KCC estimates that air pollution kills more than 1,000 people a year in Kent, and suggests that nationwide air pollution is responsible for more deaths than passive smoking, road accidents or obesity.

KCC has a responsibility to improve public health, but air quality monitoring is the duty of borough councils. When sites with illegal levels of air pollution are identified, borough councils declare an Air Quality Management Area, and draw up an action plan to lower pollutant levels.

Cllr Hook said: "Air pollution kills more people each year than road accidents in Kent, and it's not being taken seriously enough. The number of sites with dangerous levels of air pollution should be going down, not up.

"These are areas where children walk to school, where elderly people do their shopping. The Liberal Democrats have proposed a variety of solutions from encouraging the use of public transport and electric vehicles, to opposing developments that would increase the number of diesel lorries on residential roads.

"It's time the Conservative administration started listening, and stopped treating the public's health as an afterthought."

Notes:

Road casualty figures can be found here.
Air pollution deaths and other information can be found here.

Question by Antony Hook to Peter Oakford, Cabinet Member for Strategic Commissioning and Public Health

Question: Following the Air Quality report presented to the Health Reform and Public Health Cabinet Committee on 1 st May 2018 which stated that 'The Director of Public Health has duties to improve and protect the public's health and work on improving air quality..', can the Cabinet Member for Strategic Commissioning and Public Health confirm, how many locations in the county have failed to meet recommended or legal standards of air quality levels and how that has changed compared to the previous year?

Answer: KCC as a Public Health authority, has the responsibility for protecting and improving the health of residents. Air quality is the greatest environmental risk to the public's health and this is recognised both nationally and locally. As an environmental risk, the responsibility for improving air quality lies with the District and Borough councils. Since December 1997, District and Borough authorities in Kent have been assessing air quality in their areas to ensure compliance with national air quality objectives and EU ambient air quality directives. Where a district authority identifies an area or areas exceeding air quality targets and there is relevant public exposure, it is required to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and to draw up an action plan to address the problem. The latest data published are for 2016 and these show that there were 39 AQMAs declared in Kent County in 2016, an increase of 8 from the 31 declared in 2015.

These AQMAs range in size from small areas to larger conurbations. The Public Health team continue to work in partnership with many of the Districts and Boroughs, with academic institutions, and with colleagues in the KCC Growth, Environment and Transport Directorate on Kent-wide measures and strategies, and to understand local impacts of air quality on health, to support the improvement of air quality in Kent.

The Public Health team continue to work in partnership with many of the Districts and Boroughs, with academic institutions, and with colleagues in the KCC Growth, Environment and Transport Directorate on Kent-wide measures and strategies, and to understand local impacts of air quality on health, to support the improvement of air quality in Kent.