‘Our health is taking a serious hit’: Clean air campaigners slam Manchester pollution stations axe

By Toby Wadey

Clean air campaigners have slammed proposals which could see Greater Manchester’s eight pollution monitoring stations being axed.

Following a nine-week consultation which closed last month, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recommended stripping air assessment responsibilities from local authorities.

The proposals come after a landmark Supreme Court hearing which ruled Manchester, along with 14 other cities in the UK, is falling foul of EU pollution laws.

Former GMTV weather anchor Clare Nasir, who works for North West News and presents CBBC’s Fierce Earth, has taken up an ambassadorial role with Healthy Air Campaign, which is leading the fight against Defra’s suggestions.

She said: “It’s madness – the air in Manchester and across the UK is at illegal levels, the government are in court over this and our health is taking a serious hit.”

With 2013 declared ‘The Year of Air’ by the EU and the government conceding Manchester will not hit air pollution targets until 2020, the 43 year-old meteorologist said it is the wrong time to tell local authorities to stop assessing air quality.

Mother of one Ms Nasir, added: “As a parent I’m absolutely horrified that the government is refusing to protect the health of our children.”

The latest figures from Public Health England show that 5.9% of adult deaths in Manchester occur as a result of long-term exposure to pollution – a higher number than any other area in the region. 

Environmentalists blame vehicle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, with the main culprit being diesel fumes – which have been classified as carcinogenic by The World Health Organisation.

As well as cancer, research has long shown a pollution link with respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and health charities have reacted with concern to the Defra recommendations.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Air pollution can trigger heart attacks and strokes among the most vulnerable and these proposals, which would have a detrimental impact on air quality, could have dangerous consequences.”

Defra said the current process carried out by Local Air Quality Management (LAQM), is too administrative and does not take into account compliance with EU limits, so the focus should be on action rather than monitoring.

The consultation page on Defra’s website, said: “There is a need therefore to reinvigorate and refocus LAQM on action to help the UK meet EU air quality standards and to clarify its role alongside other actions to improve air quality.”

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