Today the BBC released the towns and cities across the UK that are about to exceed or have already surpassed the air pollution limits set by the World Health Organization. In total, there are 47 locations across the UK that fit this criteria, according to the WHO’s new report. When broken down, the data shows that the majority (32 areas) are over the air pollution limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, whilst only 15 are at the limit.
These UK cities cannot compare with the baffling levels of air pollution found globally, including Pasakha, Delhi and greater Cairo. Although under revision, the WHO’s most polluted city in 2015, Muzaffarpur in India, had an astonishing 197 micrograms per cubic metre. Although it’s no surprise that areas such as Manchester and London have exceeded the limit, it may be unexpected that they are in fact below many other locations, such as Port Talbot in Wales, displaying the worst levels of pollution at 18 micrograms per cubic metre. London’s figure has in fact fallen in the last few years from 17 in 2013 to 11 in 2015, and this trend has occurred in other cities. It is worth considering, however, how this data is extracted and, with cities such as London whose geographic parameters are often questionable, how such factors are measured.
The Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, Simon Gillespie, has raised his serious concerns about the environmental state of the UK, encouraging the government to adopt WHO air quality guidelines to help improve national health. Polluted air can cause long term diseases, increase mortality rates and trap people in their houses. Globally, it is estimated that 7 million people die per annum from such exposure, with the majority in countries in Asia and Africa. Even though the levels of pollution in some of these LEDCs may figure lower than those in MEDCs, the quality of health care is far poorer.
The UK government has a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality, reduce emissions that cause debilitating diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer. A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs mentioned a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy plan to be implemented later this year. Students considering Geography and Land Economy in particular should consider the impact of rising air pollution and how the government could implement an effective and successful plan to improve the impact such levels are currently having on the UK and across the world.