Air Pollution - The Silent Killer
Air pollution is a silent, invisible killer.
In the UK, air pollution is estimated to account for between 36,000 and 40,000 deaths annually, more than for obesity and alcoholism.
The cost of treating illnesses related to poor air quality, including lost working days, is estimated to be about £20bn a year.
How polluted air affects you
Air pollution aggravates other things that are likely to kill you, such as heart disease, strokes, asthma and dementia. PM2.5, NO2 and ozone interfere with oxidation reactions in the lungs and elsewhere in the body, and this can trigger inflammation and tissue damage.
A 2014 study followed 100,000 people across five European countries over 11 years, and found that a 5µg/m3 increase in average PM2.5 exposure was associated with a 13% increase in angina and heart attacks. Other studies have linked the same 5µg/m3 increase to an 18% increase in lung cancer. Other studies have shown significant links between air pollution and dementia, diabetes, kidney disease, premature births and mental illnesses.
Those most at risk include children who experience reduced lung function, and anyone with a preexisting heart or lung related condition.
How's the air quality in St. Albans?
As part of our commitment to highlight air pollution in St. Albans, Friends of the Earth carried out a nitrogen dioxide measurement exercise at 10 locations across St. Albans between the 7th May 2017 to 21st May 2017. The results are shown on the map opposite.
The numeric values in red are the average nitrous oxide measurement for the two week period. The UK annual average legal limit is 40 µg/m3, and our measurements show that six sites showed levels between 35 to 40 µg/m3, with two sites exceeding the 40 µg/m3 level. The worst site had a level of nitrogen dioxide which was over 70 µg/m3, approaching twice the legal limit.
Note that without testing each site for a full year, it is impossible to know whether a site has exceeded the annual legal limit, but our measurements certainly give an indication that the city centre and major road junctions show high levels of harmful pollutants.