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.

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


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

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