UK air pollution down on last year

Air pollution levels in the UK have dropped in both urban and rural areas, according to provisional statistics released by the government this week.

Figures show that, in urban areas in 2004, air pollution was recorded on average as moderate or higher for 22 days on each site, compared with 50 days in 2003. In rural areas during 2004, the average figure was 41 days per site, also down from 61 days in 2003.

“In general there has been a long term decline in the number of air pollution days, largely because of a reduction in particles and sulphur dioxide,” Defra said in the report, “but fluctuations from one year to the next can occur because of differences in weather conditions.”

The report also pointed out that there was no clear trend due to variability in levels of ozone, the main cause of pollution in rural areas. More ozone is produced in hot, sunny weather, as was the case during the summer heatwaves of 2003.

Measurements were taken using the government’s air quality headline indicator, which measures the average number of days on which levels of any one of the five most damaging pollutants – carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, fine particles and sulphur dioxide – were moderate or higher according to the Air Pollution Information Service bandings.

Even though these statistics for 2004 are provisional, Defra stated that it expected the official figures printed in Spring 2005 to be very similar.

By Jane Kettle

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