The Times Air Pollution Campaign: #Act4CleanAir

Wednesday 2nd October 2019

APPG Chair Geraint Davies MP welcomed attendees and introduced the panel.  The #Act4CleanAir campaign was launched with a video that features a cross-party group of MPs reading the Time manifesto pledges. All of these provisions were included in Mr Davies Clean Air Bill, which had been presented earlier that day and he briefly outlined.

The first panellist was Ben Webster, environment editor of The Times.  Ben explained the origin of The Times’ Clean Air Campaign, and his own role and experience of wearing a personal air monitor.  He outlined the targets the campaign had set and the support it had received from politicians.

Gary Fuller of Kings College spoke next.  He emphasised the health impacts of air pollution, the ‘invisible killer’.  He called for a holistic approach to tackling the problem rather than targetting only on one pollutant at a time.  There was also a need to focus on continuously reducing pollution levels, not just complying with limit values.  And he was encouraged by the rising public engagement with the issue.

Simon Birkett of Clean Air London was the next speaker.  He stressed the need for clean air to be a legal human right, and criticised Defra for its weak responses to rising concern over air pollution, including the recent Air Quality Strategy which he felt a not robust enough. He noted that there were currently six clean air bills being put forward in Parliament.

Baroness Bryony Worthington was the fourth speaker. She talked about the Clean Air Bill which she was sponsoring in the Lords, and argued that the core issue was combustion in urban environments and that this should be the real focus of legislation.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Founder at The Ella Roberta Family Foundation, was the final speaker.  She spoke of her daughter’s death due to asthma triggered by air pollutants, and that her tragedy was but one of many thousands given the scale of public health impacts.  Radical action was needed.

The Chair then opened the meeting up for Q and A and discussion.  In the debate that followed, points made included:

  • Whether the various Bills include measures to improve indoor air quality? The panel explained that did and others didn’t.
  • The decline in new vehicle diesel sales and the responsibilities of the motor industry in tackling air pollution
  • The reason for the Tines picking a 2030 deadline to end sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles. Ben Webster explained that 2030 matched the deadline chosen by several other advanced economies and therefore should be feasible, though an argument could be made for shortening the timescale further. Sandy Martin MP emphasised that changes such as the ban often needed effort and compromise to get sufficient support among stakeholders and in Parliament to deliver, however much they were supported by APPG members.
  • The need to tackle shipping emissions, which in many cases were unregulated.
  • The role of active travel and green infrastructure, along with tougher controlled parking policies.

The meeting concluded with a discussion about how best to maximise public engagement.  Karen Buck MP pointed out that public support was needed to enable tough policy actions to curb pollution, and the panel agreed that more public engagement was needed.

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The Clean Air Bill,  supported by 120 parliamentarians, can be downloaded here

Watch the Clean Air Bill and The Time’s Clean Air Manifesto video below:

video

Following are the MPs who contributed to the video:

  • Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham
  • David Drew MP for  Stroud
  • Andrew Selous  MP for  South West Bedfordshire
  • Tony Lloyd MP for Rochdale
  • Ed Vaizey MP for Wantage
  • Anne Marie Morris MP for Newton Abbot
  • Oliver Heald MP for North East Hertfordshire
  • Anna McMorrin MP for Cardiff North
  • Daniel Zeichner MP for  Cambridge
  • Geraint Davies   MP for  Swansea West
  • Afzal Khan MP for  Manchester Gorton
  • Kelvin Hopkins MP for  Luton North
  • Lilian Greenwood MP for  Nottingham South
  • Tracey Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford
  • Janet Daby MP for Lewisham East
  • Rosie Duffield MP for Canterbury

Note of APPG on Air Pollution meeting on 18/7/19: The Air We Share

Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

On the 18th of July, the APPG on Air Pollution held its second event of 2019, focused on the key findings of phase one of “The Air We Share”, a new transformative communications and engagement campaign that aims to cut Londoner’s exposure to poor air quality.

Michael Farrow, Executive Director of EIC, welcomed the attendees and thanked the panel for taking part, and Trewin Restorick (CEO) and Elle McAll (Creative Partner) from Hubbub for organizing the event.

Before the panel took the stage, the following video was played, to give the audience a general overview of the #AirWeShare campaign by Hubbub.

Following the short video, Elle (chair of the event) invited the panellists to introduce themselves:

Andrew Grieve kicked off the discussion on the phase one #AirWeShare campaign by raising awareness on another issue which should be mentioned and analysed more often. He pointed out how the general public and media tends to focus on the PM2.5 and PM10 particles, disregarding ozone. Ozone is normally formed when other pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, react in sunlight. According to Mr. Grieve, ozone figures are currently on the rise and it is indeed an issue which should be further discussed. Mr. Grieve then focused on the #AirWeShare campaign.

He explained how Kings College has a network of monitors set up around London to measure pollution levels. Whilst the data gathered by the network is relevant for further analysis of specific areas and the City itself, it doesn’t tell us about individual-level exposure. Monitoring an individual’s exposure is complex, as daily lives differ from one another. In order to gain an insight into when and where people are most exposed to pollution, Hubbub and Kings College selected 13 people of different ages, gender, professions and neighbourhoods, and asked them to carry an air quality monitor up to one week. The results were indeed very different from one another; for example, the HGV driver and outdoor worker were noticeably more exposed than the others.

Mr. Grieve mentioned some findings, such as that concerns over air pollution were particularly high for families with children; wider spaces with minor constrictions were less polluted; buildings closer to roads were exposed to more pollution compared to buildings located in quieter roads. In one particular instance, the air quality monitor spiked for one of the Londoners: it turned out that the reason for the spike was the burning of a candle during an evening yoga relaxation session. Tube lines are particularly polluted zones, especially the Northern Line as it is the deepest; Karen Buck MP shared her surprise about the spike she saw on her monitor when riding the Bakerloo Line. It was highlighted that the composition of particles Underground is different to Overground (tube dust is mostly iron oxide).

It was observed how personal story-telling element can raise awareness of the issue on a more tangible level, compared to an academic study. Hence why The Times used the #AirWeShare study to support its Clean Air For All campaign.

Mr. Restorick explained how he thinks there’s the opportunity for businesses to take a lead,  because while government policies are needed, businesses can move much faster compared to government’s initiatives. Mr. Restorick also added that more needs to be done to build awareness and engagement, as public understanding is still poor. Karen Buck MP added that from a policy point of view, we need a new clean air act, and local authorities need to come together and drive the campaign. The Government must set clear frameworks, the public needs to drive and support the initiatives, and the community has to change its mentality by joining the initiatives.

In conclusion, the panel agreed that they were encouraged by Michael Gove’s speech given on the 16th of July in Kew Gardens. The momentum to tackle air pollution is growing, for it affects us directly and gives a different perspective to the climate change conversation.

The audience was then invited to ask questions or comments. Key points made were:

  • There is little public understanding of what good and bad air quality is (e.g. difference between ambient and underground air).
  • There are plenty of monitors in the outdoors, which can mislead the public to think that once indoor, they are save from the polluted outdoor air. The public needs to be aware and educated about the indoor pollution. A holistic approach to the problem is needed, as air pollution is not only external, but internal as well.
  • People will care much more if they have some ownership of pollution data i.e. it is from their streets and neighbourhood.
  • Idling: there is hardly any research done on the effectiveness of anti-idling policies.
  • Why do councils not clamp and get cars towed away instead of just fining them?

The panel concluded the event on a positive note, stressing how we must bridge between the expertise and the passion of the audience in the room and policy makers. There is more knowledge about the issue of air pollution and simultaneously there is a growing understanding and desire to act.

An Environment Act for Cleaner Air – meeting notes

On the 26th March the APPG on Air Pollution held an event on “An Environment Act for Cleaner Air”, chaired by Geraint Davies MP.

The speakers were:

  • Professor Eloise Scotford, Faculty of Laws, University College London
  • Edward Lockhart, Convener, Broadway Initiative
  • Katie Nield, UK Clean Air Lawyer, ClientEarth
  • Roz Bulleid, Head of Climate, Energy and Environmental Policy, Make UK

Eloise Scotford, UCL

Professor Scotford has been undertaking empirical research into how local authorities deal with air quality governance. The key findings of the research were:

  •  There are unhelpful dissonances between the two statutory regimes for controlling air quality in England – the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive regime (Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010) and the LAQM regime (Environment Act 1995)
  • Local authorities are not necessarily the most appropriate public actor to mitigate air pollution, as they often do not have necessary control over some major pollution sources such as main roads.
  • There is little incentive for action beyond compliance with legal limits.
  • Air quality standards may be inadequate (particularly for PM2.5) but air quality standards defined as numerical concentration limits are also subject to gaming behaviour, and can lead to pollution displacement rather than prevention, so are not necessarily the most suitable (standalone) standards for public health outcomes.
  • The legal requirement to achieve air quality standards in ‘as short a time as possible’ can lead to perverse outcomes, since there is balance needed between the legal pressure to combat air pollution quickly (and meet legal limit values) and the need to look for a sustainable long-term solution.
  • Inconsistent monitoring requirements and modelling approaches at the national and local level can lead to divergent identification of pollution hotspots. As a result, local authorities often have different priorities areas for tackling air pollution, compared with areas that national government sees as the priority. This has an impact on where central government allocates support.
  • Local authorities need more powers (e.g. to tackle vehicle idling), but national government also has a responsibility to lead on policy messaging for behaviour change and on policy measures that require major investment or coordinated action.
  • There are public authorities with control over air pollution sources who are not currently subject to any duties to contribute to achieving air quality outcomes. More administrative coordination is required across all key public actors to tackle air pollution in an effective way (within and across local authorities, with other public actors, across levels of government).

Ed Lockhart, Broadway Initiative.

Ed Lockhart stressed that the Environment Act was an opportunity to shape how we manage the environment that only comes around every twenty years. The nature of this opportunity is defined by:
1) The need to replace EU governance and institutions for the environment which have been responsible for 80% of our laws over the past 46 years
2) The Government’s commitment to leave the environment in a better state against many pressing environmental challenges
3) Time and parliamentary time constraints

Therefore careful thought is needed to put in place the fundamental governance arrangements to consistently put in place the right laws, policies and decisions to solve the full range of environmental problems early including air quality. If we get this right we will enable all sector to play their part in meeting environmental outcomes and truly put sustainability at the heart of the economic model. The opportunity will be missed if we focus simply on legislating around the immediate issues in the press.

To do that the Bill needs to give clarity on the long term outcomes for environmental law and policy and on the roles and responsibilities to enable those outcomes to be achieved.
He said that the Broadway Initiative was set up 18 months previously as a time-limited project to ensure the best possible post-Brexit environmental governance. This grouping brings together many of the major trade associations such as the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, Make UK, the Environmental Industries Commission, along with environmental groups, academia and professional bodies. It was calling for the government’s planned Environment Bill to include:

  1.  Clear long-term objectives, supported by a process to develop targets and milestones where needed.
  2.  Environmental Improvement Plans – already in the Bill- for government as a whole to put in place the mechanisms required to enable achievement of those objectives.
  3.  A framework for local environmental improvement plans to enable planning, investment and collaboration in location specific outcomes.
  4. Allocation of responsibilities for specific activities where appropriate.
  5. The planned Office of Environmental Protection to have a strategic role in holding government to account for keeping society on track to meet the outcomes.

He stressed that the Bill needs to get the governance framework right, and then this would provide the context and framing for the details to be fleshed out in later legislation.

Katie Nield, Client Earth

Katie Nield said it was crucial that the Bill make provisions for binding targets that hold government and public bodies to account.

For air pollution, a stronger, legally-binding limit value is needed.

The Bill should provide a framework for target setting, which gives them longevity and allows for flexibility.

Action to deliver the Bill should be co-ordinated across government departments and the need for action should apply across public bodies.

Industry needs to play its part in delivering outcomes e.g. through scrappage schemes and the setting of binding targets for specific sectors.

In order to better understand the problem, a comprehensive, co-ordinated national system for measuring pollution is required, along with greater transparency on the health impacts of air pollution.

The new Office for Environmental Protection needs to have the power to issue binding notices to ensure it is an effective voice for environmental protection.

Roz Bulleid, Make UK

Make UK is the association representing the manufacturing industry.

Industry supports a collaborative approach and is pleased to see government has decided to keep following the best available technology approach for industrial emissions established by the EU rather than look at alternatives such taxation or expecting UK firms to go significantly further. This is important for companies that are competing internationally and need to remain competitiveness. A lot of the changes required are very costly

Companies involved in the automotive sector and those that use non-road mobile machinery, have been taken by surprise at the speed at which policy is changing on air pollution. There is a need for long-term clarity of policy direction.

Long-term visibility through the Environment Bill can help build regulatory alignment into investment cycles. It will also help manage competing priorities, for instance around energy efficiency and air pollution.

Q&A and discussion

Discussion with the audience followed. Key points raised were:

  • A delegate raised the issue that a watchdog with strong teeth could mean that local authorities are apportioned excessive responsibility for the pollution in their area. However there are also concerns that the draft Environment Bill (as currently drafted, particularly in light of clause 17) may not cover enforcement of air quality standards in the same way that EU law enforcement processes currently do.
    • The Environment Bill should include a human right to clean air, as is being discussed at the UN level.
    • Learning from the experience of the LAQM regime, there is a need for better allocated and aligned responsibility for achieving air quality standards on all public actors.
    • The Bill’s governance framework must not be too specific to allow for flexibility.
    • National government needs to provide leadership.
    • Uncertainty shouldn’t limit action, and there is not time to wait for perfect evidence.
    • The particulate matter target (of reducing the number of people living in locations above the WHO guidelines by 50% by 2025) is an vague target and a missed opportunity.
    • A ‘national anti-idling campaign’ would be a good starting point for public engagement in air pollution issues, but there is a need for more to be done to educate the public, which will in turn allow for policymakers to be more ambitious.
    • Low-cost pollution monitors are an issue for the public as the information they provide is often incorrect – but the technology is still in development.
    • There is a need for long-term vision to drive all action and political priorities on air quality.

To close the event, the Chair asked the panel to state their key request for the Environment Bill:

  • Make UK – clarity about what the Bill is trying to achieve, with a long-term vision and targets.
  • Client Earth – long-term flexible mechanisms with non-regressive binding targets. The Bill should establish an advisory body to advise on target setting. The Bill should have flexibility to allow new pollutants to be included in the future, when they are discovered.
  • UCL – duty on all public bodies with some control over air pollution sources to take action to pursue air quality objectives (and perhaps to issue plans showing their contributions)
  • Broadway Initiative – the Bill not including indoor air quality is a missed opportunity.

 

Indoor Air Pollution: Health Impacts & Potential Solutions

APPG on Air Pollution – Indoor Air Pollution: Health Impacts & Potential Solutions – 6th September 2018 

Click here to view the slide pack


Geraint Davies welcomed attendees and thanked the panel for taking part. He said that 2 years the Royal College of Physicians had produced a ground-breaking report (Every Breath We Take) on outdoor air pollution, which greatly increased the visibility of the issue as one of public health, and highlighted the 40,000 deaths outdoor air pollution causes every year.

However, only around 10-30% of our time is spent outdoors, and thus the Royal College of Physicians are now working on a new report, due later this year, that focuses on the impact of indoor air pollution on the health of children.

He introduced the panel:

David Evans MBE, Founder, Airtopia

David Evans MBE is an economist, social entrepreneur and philanthropist. The founder of Grass Roots, he was the first person to be recognised with the single citation of ‘Services to Corporate Social Responsibility.’ Currently, Evans runs multiple social enterprises, including Airtopia, and has established The David Evans Grass Roots Foundation.

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist, Indoor Environments, Public Health England

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou is a Senior Environmental Scientist within the Air Pollution and Climate Change Group, Environmental Change Department in Public Health England (PHE). She is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at UCL, The Bartlett School Environment, Energy and Resources since January 2016. Her research interests include air pollution related effects on health and exposure assessment to air pollution, based on modelling and monitoring of outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution and ventilation, health impact assessments and development of environmental public health indicators.

Carla Jones, CEO, Allergy UK

Carla joined Allergy UK in May 2015 with ten years senior executive experience leading complex services in the third and public sectors and an earlier academic career lecturing on topics associated with early years development, the psycho-social aspects of health and evaluation of the impact of the government’s Sure Start initiatives.

Carla is leading the strategic growth of Allergy UK in line with its mission to raise the profile of allergy at all levels so that everyone affected by allergy will receive the best possible care and support

Dr. Derrick Crump, Consultant, Indoor Air Quality Consulting

Dr Derrick Crump has worked in government, education and private sector organisations undertaking consultancy, teaching and research concerned with the provision of good IAQ for over 35 years and published 180 papers in journals, conferences and books. Since leaving full time employment in academia in 2015 he is continuing to contribute to research, development of international standards and consultancy projects in this field both though his own limited company and by association with IEH Consulting (www.iehconsulting.co.uk).

 

David Evans MBE, Founder, Airtopia

David Evans MBE, founder of Airtopia, which sponsors the work of the APPG on Air Pollution, introduced the work of Airtopia and his background. Airtopia is a company that provides affordable indoor air quality tests for the public. David Evans said that his interest in air pollution stretched back to his childhood, growing up in a smog-covered Rotherhithe. He said that indoor air pollution in particular is a “self-inflicted wound”, and key to mitigating its effect is to better educate the public on the simple solutions available to reduce it – chiefly the importance of proper ventilation of a building.

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist, Indoor Environments, Public Health England

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou began by stating how human health is determined by a variety of factors: from the our environment (both natural and built), our activities, our local area, our personal lifestyle and our physical individuality.

She listed the different factors affecting Indoor Air Quality:

  • Ambient air
  • Urban planning
  • Material and equipment in buildings
  • Occupant activities
  • Ventilation
  • Design and maintenance of buildings

And the sources of indoor air pollutants:

 

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou pointed out that air permeability had a key effect on indoor air quality, and that a side effect of the increasing drive to make our buildings more energy efficient has had the unintended consequence of keeping indoor air pollutants trapped in the home. She stressed the need for proper design, installation and use of ventilator systems to reduce the impact of indoor air pollution.

This drive for airtightness in buildings has the unintended effects of increasing condensation and mould, and causing buildings to overheat.

Short term effects of indoor air pollution:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue (VOCs)
  • Cognitive performance, productivity (CO2)
  • likelihood of effects depends on:
    • age
    • pre-existing medical conditions
    • individual sensitivity
    • repeated exposure or high level exposure

Long-term effects:

May show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure (traffic related pollutants, radon)

        • Respiratory diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD)
        • Heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
        • Cancer (lung cancer)

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou stressed the importance of tackling emissions at source, and applying high standards to ensure proper ventilation in buildings.

Public Health England participate in cross-government departments and with individual government departments to increase awareness of indoor air pollution.

Carla Jones, CEO, Allergy UK

Carla Jones began by pointing out how indoor air pollution was an issue that affected vulnerable groups in particular.

Indoor air pollutions affects our food, environment, air and water, and as a result our health. It tends to be invisible and undetectable but still can be dangerous.

40,000 deaths a year are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution, with more linked to exposure to indoor pollutants.

The cost to business and society of indoor air pollution is estimated be £20 billion per annum.

The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incidence of allergy. Allergic disease is associated with the air we breath, produces we use and food we eat.

21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy (10 million with at least one)

50% of children in the UK suffer from some form of allergic disease.

Prevalence of allergic disease in the elderly is estimated to be around 5-10% (globally).

Respiratory allergies are caused by allergens in the environment such as pollens, house dust mites, pets and moulds. Levels of air pollutants and allergens tend to be higher indoors.

HealthVent Project estimated that indoor air pollution causes at least 1.5 – 2 million deaths a year worldwide.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children with 80% having allergic asthma – this is driven by airborne allergens- pollen, mould, dust mites, pet dander.

Exposure to mould and dampness in infancy increases risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma up to age 16 – particularly for those children who are non-allergic.

The population is aging – with percentage of adults over 65 projected to increase to 20% in 2020. Elderly people are likely to spend more time at home than average. Therefore indoor air pollution is particularly important for this group. They are more at risk from air pollution, even at low concentrates, because of their weaker immune systems.

There are 900 compounds harmful to health that have been detected in indoor air.

2,000,000 healthy life years are lost every year in the EU due to poor indoor air quality.

Potential solutions?

  • Improve public understanding of the impact of air pollution – e.g. VOCs in building materials, furniture, paints, cleaning products.
  • Introduce a new Indoor Air Quality Certificate for all buildings.
  • Educate those who take part in the design and build of homes and public buildings to improve their knowledge of tackling indoor air pollution.
  • Need for better recognition of health and wellbeing as a priority within the building regulations, particularly in regard to energy efficiency regulations.

Dr. Derrick Crump, Consultant, Indoor Air Quality Consulting

Dr. Crump’s presentation focused on source control as a potential solution.

The Building Regulations consider the need for ventilation in buildings but do not recognise source control.

Building Bulletin 101 provides guidance on ventilation and indoor air quality for schools.

Some European countries have indoor emission labelling schemes across Europe – some of which are voluntary. The UK is well behind of other Western countries on this issue.

A government backed labelling scheme – that minimises the risk of harmful products to human health – is long overdue. This should be based on best practice already applied elsewhere and should be sufficiently rigorous to discourage any ‘dumping’ of poor quality products on the UK market that fail to meet emission criteria in other countries.
Q&A and discussion with the audience followed. Some key points raised were:

  • Clean Air in London said that the standards used on publication of BB101 were out of date, and that the government must ensure that these are immediately reviewed. They are calling for a new standard for hospitals based on ISO standards.
  • Geraint Davies MP said that he was due to republish his Clean Air Bill and that it will include a substantial section on Indoor Air Quality, and invited Clean Air in London (and other any interested parties) to submit evidence to him. He said that there was clearly a need for some of the most harmful products to be banned outright.
  • Ruth Cadbury MP pointed out the issue of damp and mould being particularly severe in overcrowded homes in London. The Building Regulations were inconsistent on this, being weak on ventilation. Standards needed to be generalised, following the example of BB101, and made long-lasting to ensure they are kept up to date.
  • There was then a statement made from a member of the public who had experienced the effects of a formaldehyde contamination in their home – see here for the full statement.
  • Airtopia pointed out that they offer more affordable tests than the BRE standard
  • The CEO of Local Authority Building Control said that the current focus of ministers was on safety after the Grenfell disaster
  • Geraint Davies MP said that the Clean Air Bill should have a simple list of recommendations on Indoor Air Quality and urged attendees to contact his office with recommendations.
  • A UCL research urged for the need for more disclosure as to what building materials and furniture is made from. Allergy UK said that their “Seal of Approval” was their method of doing this.
  • Public Health England would be reviewing evidence of possible interventions from different sectors and will publish end of October.

 

 

 

The everyday danger of formaldehyde

On 6th September, the APPG on Air Pollution held a meeting on the subject of Indoor Air Pollution. At the meeting, the Group heard an impassioned statement from a member of the public about their personal experience of formaldehyde contamination in their home. The full statement can be read below:

‘My husband & I hope that the APPG on Air Pollution will lead to a situation where the health & safety of residents is as strongly protected as that of workers under the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – whose air quality standards is protected. We’d like to tell you what happened to us.

Last year we had luxury bedroom cabinets fitted which caused air pollution in our bedroom to exceed 13 x World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for Formaldehyde, 18 x UK Building Regulations for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and 5 x WHO limits for Styrene. This was no one-off accident by our supplier. They told us that fumes which caused eye stinging were quite normal in their 20 year experience of making cabinets.

Experts said the problem would not necessarily go away with time.  BRE (the former government Building Research Establishment) said that chemical reactions between different components of our cabinets -(MDF, glues, lacquer, paint, filler etc…) could cause formaldehyde emissions to be continuously produced for years.

We reported our case to Trading Standards who, we hoped, would stop the company doing similar work in our community; which at the time they were doing. But Trading Standards did not act for more than a year and we do not think they can stop these indoor poisonings. They have told us that the best outcome we can hope for is a promise by the company never to do it again. But how will consumers know if they do?

We have researched this issue thoroughly, particularly that of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products like MDF (which cause cancer according to the WHO & the International agency for Research on Cancer, IARC) with the support of our MP Ruth Cadbury. We feel the only answer is to regulate so that only MDF which emits ZERO formaldehyde can be used in homes.

Formaldehyde is a silent killer. Except at extremely high levels it is indistinguishable from the smell of fresh paint. Whereas carbon monoxide poisoning or house dust mites cause immediate symptoms, the cancers formaldehyde causes may take years to develop.

We were able to afford to pay for the BRE’s gold standard air quality tests and as a result had our expensive new bedroom ripped out two weeks after installation. More than a year on we are still trying to get our money back from the supplier.

None of this would have happened if only zero-emitting MDF was allowed to be used in our home.

We very much hope that members of this Indoor Air Quality panel will consider our case in their future deliberations on this issue and perhaps even assist us in bringing our case to the attention of the National Institutes for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which is currently developing its ‘Indoor Air Quality at Home’ guidelines.’

The APPG on Air Pollution is sponsored by Airtopia

airtopia-LOGO_MASTER

Airtopia provides affordable domestic air quality tests to help people breathe easy in healthier homes.

Find out more here

‘Protecting Air Quality After Brexit’ – Meeting Notes

Notes on ‘Protecting Air Quality after Brexit’ held on 19th June 2018

Geraint Davies MP, Chair of the APPG, commenced proceedings and thanked the panellists and the sponsors of the APPG, Airtopia.

Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians

On the health impacts of air pollution:

  • The negative health impacts of air pollution occur across the life course and can begin at conception.
  • Both long-term exposure and acute air pollution episodes are linked to poor health.
  • Exposure to air pollution in infancy can damage the lungs, and increase the risk of lung infections that may be fatal.
  • Air pollution is linked to reduced lung function in children and adults, lung cancer in adulthood and the development of new onset asthma as well as exacerbating asthma in those who already live with the condition.
  • Air pollution is also an issue of health inequality. The most vulnerable groups – namely people living in deprived areas, children, older people living with chronic long-term conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases – suffer the most harm.
  • There is no level of exposure to air pollution that is safe with multiple organs being affected.
  • Whilst a number of sectors contribute to the UK’s poor air quality, road transport (and especially diesel combustion from older vehicles) is responsible for a high proportion of the burden of disease.

On the impact of Brexit specifically:

  • Air pollution limits set by the EU will technically remain in UK law after Brexit, having been enshrined through the Air Quality Standards Regulation. But the Royal College of Physicians is concerned that the EU will no longer have a role in enforcement and the UK government would therefore be free to repeal the existing limits and introduce weaker air quality rules, and review any deadlines for meeting them.
  • Brexit could also be used as an opportunity to strengthen air quality standards in the UK by adopting revised limits based on World Health Organization guidelines which are driven solely by the available health evidence and set much tighter standards for a number of pollutants.

Amy Mount, Head of Greener UK

  • Greener UK is a group of 13 major environmental organisations with a combined public membership of 7.9 million. They are campaigning to make Brexit an opportunity to enhance and restore the natural environment.
  • 80% of environmental policy stems from EU law.
  • Greener UK have produced a risk tracker which shows which environmental areas are most at risk from being negatively affected by Brexit. Air quality is currently considered to be “red” risk rating because the UK is currently failing to meet its commitments.
  • In general, Greener UK are campaigning for:
    • Continued UK-EU co-operation, e.g. on trans-boundary air pollution.
    • High standards across UK and EU
    • The new green watchdog to have the same enforcement powers as the EU, to take the government to account
    • A new ambitious Environment Act with clean air goals and other objectives
  • On the green watchdog specifically, Greener UK are urging government to ensure that the new body:
    • Has enforcement powers to initiate and intervene in legal proceedings
    • Includes a citizen’s complaints mechanism
    • Includes climate change into its remit
    • Applies to public authorities as well as central government
    • Is guaranteed independence from government interference

 

Katherine Neild, Clean Air Lawyer, ClientEarth

Both the legislative and governance drivers for action to tackle air pollution in this country have come from the EU – in the form of:

  1. The Ambient Air Quality Directive – this sets limit values and mandates action where these limits are breached. It is now 8 years since the UK was meant to comply with nitrogen dioxide limits, yet the government is still failing to meet its obligations; and
  2. The European Commission and the CJEU – the UK has recently been referred to the CJEU by the European Commission over its failure to meet its obligations under the Ambient Air Quality Directive.

When these fall away following exit from the EU, there is real risk that ambition on air quality will wane.

However, there is now a real opportunity for the UK not just to fill the gaps left following Brexit, but to improve on the existing structures.  To do so, we need a new Clean Air Act that is fit for the 21 Century, backed up by an environmental watchdog with teeth.

ClientEarth’s suggestions for a new Clean Air Act:

  1. Adopt more ambitious air quality standards based on the latest scientific evidence
  • Merely carrying over existing limit values is not enough.
  • Limit values set out in the Ambient Air Quality Directive do not reflect the guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO), particularly for particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).
  • To ensure that people’s health is protected in line with the latest scientific evidence, a new Clean Air Act should adopt binding limit values that correspond to the latest WHO standards and provide a mechanism whereby those limit values can be revised down or new pollutants added to the list where new evidence comes to light.
  • Even if the existing implementing Regulations are carried over post-Brexit, there is concern that retained law will not be properly secured against future modification by statutory instrument. Without new primary legislation, existing standards could easily be relaxed.
  1. Enshrine the right to breathe clean air into domestic law and guarantee access to the courts to enforce that right
  • The Act should enshrine peoples’ right to clean air, in line with limit values.
  • It should provide a quick and affordable mechanism for the public and NGOs to enforce this right, allowing the substantive review of air quality plans and providing effective judicial remedies.
  • ClientEarth’s legal action has been instrumental in holding the government to account over their inadequate air quality plans. Whilst giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee earlier this year, Michael Gove himself recognised that ClientEarth’s legal action demonstrated that the courts are a “very effective tool for making sure Government is kept to the mark”. Maintaining this tool is vital.
  1. Consolidate and clarify existing legislation
  • Air quality legislation has evolved in a relatively piecemeal manner. Powers and duties are located in different Acts and Regulations and it is often difficult to identify the mechanisms by which central government, devolved administrations, metro mayors, local authorities can be held to account and how citizens can ensure the air they breathe is clean.  We need a new single piece of primary legislation that consolidates and clarifies.
  • Defra’s draft Clean Air Strategy contains a commitment to bring forward “long-standing frameworks for local and national action on air pollution into the 21st century with stronger powers and clearer accountability”. This is absolutely necessary, but the devil will be in the detail.
  • The UK Government’s latest approach to address illegal levels of roadside NO2 across the country has been to pass down responsibility to individual English local authorities. In many cases, these local authorities are concerned that they do not have the necessary powers or resources to implement the measures required to tackle the issue.
  • Central government has a duty to take action to address what it has recognised as the “biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK”. The government must not simply pass responsibility to local authorities that are already under strain and do not have the resources, expertise or policy levers to address this problem alone.
  • Where responsibility is imposed on local authorities to take action, they will need to be given the funding, support and powers to do so effectively.

Prof. Roland Leigh, Technical Director, EarthSense

EarthSense was born from 15 years of air quality research at the University of Leicester, and was created to bring some cutting-edge techniques into the operational environment with the aim of:

  1. contributing to resolving the current air quality crisis
  2. promoting sustainable development and clean technologies
  3. encouraging societal benefit and economic growth.
  • Any relaxation of air quality legislation, additional leniency shown for non-compliance, or even perception thereof, would be highly damaging to a wide range of industries across the UK. If the UK trails other countries in this area, our industry will look to other countries for existing solutions, and our international competitiveness will diminish.
  • Our export power reduces further as our perceived environmental credentials weaken, and we struggle to deliver services across the world from a country which is perceived as weak in terms of air quality. The environmental monitoring sector would be heavily affected. In general, strict regulations drive innovation across the environmental sector and others such as automotive and engineer.
  • The government encourage, stimulate and initiate innovation through clean and demanding legislation. However, softer approaches must also be utilised, including the encouragement of industrial best practice in the area through accreditation schemes and intelligent public procurement.

On monitoring

  • The current EU metrics for air quality are based on relatively old techniques and technologies. A single number for a few pollutants are used to report on entire urban areas with hundreds of thousands of people.
  • But consistent methodologies for measurement and modelling allow trends over time to be reliably tracked without concerns over the impact of any changes in measurement technique.
  • We should therefore look to continue this baseline requirement for monitoring and build on it with innovative solutions which provide better decision-making information, and a more robust appreciation of the actual human health impact of any pollution.

On metrics

  • The headline figures demonstrating the impact of air pollution – deaths per annum and economic impact, should be reported annually and tracked to understand the effectiveness of our interventions. The methodology could be updated with our best understanding of where the pollution is and what the indoor situation is?
  • Monitoring these metrics could be a role of the new environmental watchdog body. Failure to meet targets could result in ring-fenced fines being allocated towards air quality initiatives.

Earlier this year, EarthSense also launched a pollution post code checker in collaboration with the BBC. Approximately 2 million people used this facility in the first 48 hours. This shows the very significant public interest in this issue.

EarthSense advocate that the UK should build on EU legislation beyond Brexit to genuinely protect human health, stimulate growth and healthy competitiveness. The creation of sustainable cities of the future is critical for the global community, and the UK should be at the cutting edge.

Discussion followed. Some key points raised were:

  • There was a discussion around the need for better public engagement as to the issue of air pollution. It was suggested that an appropriate way of doing this would be through the medical profession, and particularly general practitioners.
  • Delegates noted that while electric vehicles were certainly a step in the right direction in terms of reducing harmful emissions, it was also critical to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road, and promote active travel (walking & cycling), public transport, and shared ownership (e.g. car clubs)
  • A delegate noted the importance of recognising indoor air quality as a separate and equally as significant issue as transport emissions, considering people spend the majority of their time indoors.

 

 

Chair of APPG on Air Pollution responds to announcement of Clean Air Strategy

1200px-Official_portrait_of_Geraint_Davies_crop_2Geraint Davies MP, the newly-elected Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, responded to the launch of the Defra consultation on the draft Air Quality Strategy as follows:

“The UK Government is in the dock of European Court of Justice because 40,000 premature UK deaths are caused by air pollution each year. Despite this, Michael Gove is not taking the crisis seriously. He knows that, if we leave the EU, safeguards against toxic levels of air pollution will no longer be in place.

“We urgently need a Clean Air Act. Instead, the Government wants to hide the problem in an Environment Act and evade their responsibility to tackle a problem which already costs the economy £20 billion a year. We need to create a manufacturing environment which inspires cutting edge green technology for world-wide exports, not an out-dated industrial backwater with old machinery in chronic decay. Michael Gove should take this seriously for the sake of our environment, economy and public health.”

APPG EGM Update

On May 2nd 2018, the APPG on Air Pollution held an Extraordinary General Meeting as Matthew Pennycook MP announced he would be stepping down from the role of Chair.

After a ballot, Geraint Davies MP, Labour MP for Swansea West, was elected as the new Chair of the Group.

He commented:

“I am absolutely delighted to be elected the new chair of the APPG for Air Pollution. Toxic emissions cause 40,000 early deaths each year, and the Government has been taken to court for failing to meet air quality standards. The case for urgent change is overwhelming.

I previously authored the Clean Air Bill to be re-published in June as a blueprint for action. Meanwhile I’m working with MPs from across the Council of Europe and with the devolved administrations on gathering best practice. The Royal College of Physicians supports the Bill.

We won’t let Brexit become a vehicle to dumb down standards or an excuse to evade responsibility. We all have a right to clean Air and the APPG exists to hold the Government to account on air pollution, drawing on expertise from research and industry.”

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Green, was also elected as a Vice-Chair.

2018: A vital year for the UK government and air quality

Mo Saqib is the Policy & Communications Officer at London-based clean cold specialists Dearman

Mo-SaqibLast week, Dearman was invited to present at the APPG on Air Pollution’s workshop ‘Technology options for combating vehicle emissions’ held in Portcullis House. The event was well-timed given all the policy currently being developed to reduce harmful levels of emissions across Britain.

The showcase was hosted by APPG Chair Matthew Pennycook MP, and gave us a chance to meet a number of policymakers, such as Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald MP, and former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey MP. All of them are of course seeking to influence steps the UK government is taking to reduce air pollution. So what does 2018 hold on the policy front?

The strong arm of the law

After Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £220 million Clean Air Fund in the Autumn Budget, 2017 ended with the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which commendably has Clean Growth as one of its four Grand Challenges.

But we began 2018 with the European Commission asking environment ministers from nine EU countries- including the UK- to attend a summit and explain what steps they were taking to reduce air pollution. All nine countries were chosen as they face potential legal action from the EU for breaching agreed air pollution limits. It won’t be until mid-March till we find out whether the Commission is satisfied with the plans that were eventually submitted- if not, a referral to the European Court of Justice awaits for countries falling short.

Similarly, we also await a court ruling imminent this month, in a case brought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, about whether the UK government’s air quality plan needs to go further. Will ministers be forced to demand more from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution? These 45 are identified as having illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions, according to modelling from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). If ClientEarth wins, it will be the third time it has successfully sued the government and forced it to do more on tackling air pollution.

Major initiatives?

There is also the government’s additional Clean Air Strategy. The air quality plan that ClientEarth is suing DEFRA over is focussed on reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions from transport sources. The Clean Air Strategy will be much wider and will seek to tackle pollution from all sources, not just transport.  A consultation on the strategy is expected to launch in the Spring, with the strategy itself being launched later this year. Part of the consultation is likely to consider whether more can be done to tackle emissions from non-road mobile machinery (NRMM), and this includes transport refrigeration units (TRUs). There are a number of zero-emission TRUs on the market, including Dearman’s, and, given the very high levels of pollution from diesel TRUs, it is vital the Clean Air Strategy takes steps to encourage a take-up of zero-emission TRUs.

We also have the government review of red diesel use in urban areas. As we at Dearman have long argued, it is illogical for government to subsidise diesel, for example, in delivery trucks’ weakly regulated secondary engines, while a number of zero emission alternatives are available and affordable. Government is effectively subsidising the disproportionate nitrogen oxide and particulate matter pollution from these secondary diesel engines. Chancellor Philip Hammond was right to launch the red diesel consultation last March, and we understand that draft proposals will be brought forward this year. These proposals will be a real opportunity to encourage a transition to cleaner technologies and we hope this opportunity will not be missed.

Add in initiatives from city mayors, such as London’s Sadiq Khan bringing forward his plans for an Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the UK government developing proposals for a post-Brexit ‘green regulator’, and the Scottish and Welsh governments also taking additional steps, the overall picture shows a great many policy initiatives being worked on as we speak. If policymakers are to tackle air pollution, 2018 will be a vital year. Let’s see if they deliver.

This article was also published on airqualitynews.com