Targeting the long term effects

While Meacher talks tough about government air pollution targets, a project in Merseyside has researched and developed methods to measure particle emissions from engine exhausts and certain industrial processes.

Paradise Street bus station in Merseyside where PM10 monitoring is being carried out for the Merseyside Transport Futures project.

Paradise Street bus station in Merseyside where PM10 monitoring is being carried out for the Merseyside Transport Futures project.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher has announced tough new targets to cut air pollution. Following advice from the government's expert Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), new target for particles, benzene, carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been set in an attempt to reduce the number of people with both short-term health effects and long-term illnesses.

The Committee points to a likely figure of 10,500 hospital admissions and the early death of 8,100 vulnerable people in the UK as validation that long-term effects of particle air pollution on health are at least ten times greater than the short-term effects on which present policies are based. In the consultation paper, the Committee has suggested halving the long-term particle pollution levels by 2010 and has also set different targets for London and Scotland, to mirror the development, industrial activity and transport levels which differ markedly between the two areas. The government has also proposed that the Mayor and local authorities in London should work towards an annual target of 20 micrograms per cubic metre by 2015, by identifying cost-effective and proportionate local action to make this progress possible.

Improving air quality
Meacher concluded: "The latest advice from health experts shows that particle air pollution is still having a significant impact on health. Recent evidence suggests that long-term exposure to particle air pollution can lead to premature death, particularly from heart disease.

"The proposals published today involve a significant strengthening of our air quality targets for particles and other important air pollutants. They confirm the government's commitment to respond promptly to the latest advice from health experts."

The government has already set in place a range of measures that will reduce emissions of particles such as the Ten Year 2010 Transport Plan which sets out a programme of substantial increased investment of £180m to improve public transport, cut congestion and reduce pollution.

A European-funded research project led by Mersey Travel and the Environment Agency is nearing completion, having undertaken a detailed examination of techniques which can monitor levels of particulate matter in the air. The project, called Merseyside Transport Futures, has sought specifically to examine methods of PM10 monitoring from vehicle exhausts emissions and certain industrial processes.

The project partners, together with the University of Liverpool's Centre for Intelligent Monitoring Systems (CIMS), have researched and developed what they believe will lead to the production of commercially available monitoring technology. The potential applications of the prototypes that have been developed during the project, range from onboard monitoring of vehicle exhausts, to remote monitoring of air quality in urban areas using CCTV.

Other possible uses include the measurement and control of emissions from industrial plants and, even, intelligent engine monitoring systems that could help fleet operators to make considerable fuel efficiency savings.

The final report of the project is due in December 2001 but the latest update can be found on the PM10 project's website at www.pm10.org.uk.


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