Now that traffic pollution in the Kingshill Road has been shown to exceed acceptable limits, posing a risk to public health, Swindon will look to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in a bid to tackle poor air quality.
Organisations like SCAN have been warning about the harmful effects of air pollution for many years. That’s not just the worldwide damage from greenhouse gasses and global warming but the local damage being done to the environment and human health.
We used to talk about the ‘acid rain’ caused by nitrogen oxides from the burning of fossil fuels. That included the emissions from car exhausts, power stations and industry. Now we know much more about the effects of these gases, not just their direct impact on the environment and health but how they react in the air to produce other harmful side-effects such as the creation of ‘fine particles’.
According to the Department for Transport, 29,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to fine particulate pollution. This is on top of other negative health effects of NO2 pollution, such as lung damage, increased risk of bronchitis, and exacerbation of existing conditions such as asthma.
Since 1990, NOx emissions have started to fall, with tighter European regulations for power station and vehicle emissions resulting in less coal being burnt and the introduction of catalytic converters, but there is still a lot more to be done.
The solutions aren’t rocket science. As well as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by introducing more renewable energy we need fewer, cleaner, cars on the road. We can do this by switching to electric vehicles (powered by greener electricity) and making it easier for people to use their cars less by improving choices for public transport, walking and cycling.
It’s not just a problem for people living around the Kingshill Road area, it’s part of a bigger problem of reducing overall pollution levels nationally, and around the world.
We should consider the whole of Swindon, and beyond, to be an Air Quality Management Area. Even if you ignore the environmental damage being done by pollution, the steps we need to take to reduce that damage mean that we will all be breathing cleaner air, and that can’t be a bad thing.