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Air pollution in Bristol – what are we breathing?

…and the answer is….Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Lots of it, way more than we should be, and almost every day. And it is affecting our health. I check on this regularly, using data downloaded from the Bristol air quality data website, which publishes data almost in real time, with hourly and daily means.

 The legal limit (from European Directives) on Nitrogen Dioxide is an annual mean of 40µg/m3  and a limit of 18 times on the number of times the hourly mean (average) measurement can be more than 200µg/m  in one year.

Why does this matter?

We all want a healthy city. Curbside pollution is damaging to our health – the current evidence strongly suggests a correlation between respiratory problems and excess NO2. We need more research on this as some of the research was done when we had much higher levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere than we do now and it was difficult to disentangle the impact of each of the substances on our respiratory health. Scientists are also trying to establish just how much NO2 causes increased risk of hospitalisation, for, say children with asthma. But the risk is there.

In April 2014, the monitoring stations in Rupert Street (centre of town) and Newfoundland Road (just before the start of the M32, in St Paul’s), show that the average NO2 was more than the 40µg/m3 most days. And in Rupert Street, the hourly mean exceeded 200µg/m on 69 occasions. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are particularly prone. 69 in one month. We are only supposed to breach the hourly mean limit 35 times in one year.

I’ve put questions to the Mayor and Cabinet about this, but I haven’t got far. And there are solutions to this problem – we can invest in low emissions buses, we can encourage motorists to cut the number of journeys by 10%, we can make public transport (trainsand buses) a reliable and affordable option.

Last week I had an article in the online news website Bristol 247 about the potential for Bristol’s Green Capital status to have a real and positive impact on the lives and health of Bristolians – using the example of tackling air pollution.

Why are we playing Russian roulette with our respiratory health like this?

So I will keep monitoring this and I will keep asking questions  – until we get progress and can breathe more easily.

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