Tuesday 3 July 2018 It was a glorious sunny day, a wander through Embankment gardens with it’s tropical banana plants and along the terrace of Somerset House to Kings College Strand campus to attend this year’s London Air Quality Network Conference. This is an effort to summarise a thoroughly interesting day full of information in to a few paragraphs. Hounslow Council currently subscribe to Ricardo AEA for their air quality monitoring.
Professor Frank Kelly from King’s College introduced the event stating that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the network.
- LondonAir is the website of the London Air Quality Network (LAQN), and shows air pollution in London and south east England.
- The website provides information for the public, for policy users, and for scientists.
- The LAQN was formed in 1993 to coordinate and improve air pollution monitoring in London.
Prof Kelly highlighted that there has been a lot of change in the past year with:
- DEFRA’s Clean Air Strategy in consultation at the moment.
- The T-Charge will be replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone which will mean vehicles using central London will have to meet new, tighter emissions standards from 8 April 2019.
- Nationally, major cities are putting Clean Air Zones in place in an effort to improve their air quality too.
- Clean Air Day this year the most successful yet with events to raise awareness that we all have the right to breathe clean air.
- Internationally WHO are updating their air quality guidelines which currently are: Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5)10 μg/m3 annual mean and 25 μg/m3 24-hour mean and Particulate Matter (PM10) to 20 μg/m3 annual mean and 50 μg/m3 24-hour mean. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is 40 μg/m3 annual mean and 200 μg/m3 1-hour mean. Given that new research has emerged in recent years suggesting health effects below some of these limit values it is possible that WHO may recommend further decreases in their Guidelines values.
Timothy Baker, Environmental Research at King’s College, spoke next explaining that:
- LondonAir’s objectives in 2017 were to be able to search all sites in one go, a new function asked for by Local Authorities and this is now possible. NO2 annual means are getting better, however some of the worst places are getting worse.
- He highlighted the fact that weather plays a large part in air quality, for example when The Beast from the East in Feb/March of this year, hit the UK the easterly winds brought snow and pollution from Europe’s industrial emissions and there was a further spike caused by people staying home from work and using home wood heating.
- There is a new Local Authority app which is currently being used by Lewisham, called LewishamAir to help raise awareness of pollution in their borough and so that the borough can analyse the data and take action.
Hima Chouhan, from ERG Air Pollution Control at King’s College London took a look back at the early days, having been an original employee 25 years ago when they started off as SEIPH (South East Institute of Public Health) in Tunbridge Wells in 1991:
- 1993 – LAQN was created and the London Air Quality Manual was written. Sean Beevers headed up the modelling team and Gary Fuller the measurements team. There were differences in the way NO2 was read as they went to three different labs.
- 1994 – started network and a lot of effort was put in to co-ordinating and growing the sites. In this year NO2 readings exceeded 400ugm in the winter and there was an asthma epidemic in June.
- 1995 – the team produced the first NO2 measurements by Sean Beevers and this was broadcast on Ceefax and Teletext. The team had the TV on all the time and were proud that the results were being shown live to the public.
- 1996 – Monnet was released, taylor-made and in-house, it produced automatic data collection. In 2000 this was updated with data plotting and analysis tools.
- 1996 – March of this year experienced the worst PM10 episode in modern times and an investigation of wind sectors.
- 1997 – National Air Quality Strategy, requiring monitoring and an action plan.
- 1999 – ERG at SEIPH joined the school of Health and Life Sciences at King’s College London and relocated to St Thomas’s campus. It was in this year that the first alarm bells began to ring regarding high levels of NO2.
- 2000 – The GLA was set up and the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy was set up in 2002.
- 2003 – More alarm bells began to ring regarding NO2, PM10 and Ozone which in the heatwave was at its highest measurement in 10 years and PM10 deteriorated to 1998 levels.
- 2004 – NO2 problems persisted and there was an unexpected rise in this invisible gas from exhaust fumes. A new PM10 filter was introduced for monitoring.
- 2005 – A major explosion at Buncefield Depot lead to closer working between LAQN and the Heath Protection Agency. Measurements around waste management sites led to the Environmental Agency taking the problem of waste sites seriously.
- 2006 – More NO2 warnings and the development of the Volatile Correction Model (VCM).
- 2009 – Formation of the MRC – PHE Centre which influences policy and awareness.
Gary Fuller, King’s College London then spoke about a tale of two cities, a study of air pollution in London and Paris. Similarities included being mega cities, they share common problems and an average 50-55,000 premature deaths per year attributed to air pollution in the whole of France and the UK. Differences included more motorcycles in Paris and more buses in London, both contributing to poor air quality. Roadside increments between 2010-16 including those in Outer London show that in some locations the current policies aren’t sufficient to make improvement.
David Green, King’s College spoke about air pollution from construction and building a cleaner London, and Carl Desouza, King’s College about London developing a new approach to the non-road mobile machinery inventory.
Rosalind O’Driscoll, Greater London Authority discussed the future for air quality in London specifically related to schools. She outlined the three strategies from City Hall: London Environment Strategy, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and The London Plan alongside the Healthy Streets approach to encourage more walking and cycling in the city.
Frank Kelly then stood in for Ian Mudway to speak about the Impact of London’s Low Emission Zone on air quality and children’s respiratory health and Mireille Toledano, Imperial College London, explained the Impact of London’s road traffic air and noise pollution on birth weight.