Luton Borough Council is obliged under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 to review, before the expiration of a period of 12 months, Air Quality. The last report ‘2016 Air Quality Management Status Report’ published by the Council on its website was dated June 2016. Therefore, it appears no report was published during 2017 and the publication of this year’s June 2018 report is now 6 months overdue. Clearly without these reports it is impossible for the people of Luton to know whether their health is being affected by illegal levels of pollutants and what measures the Council are putting into place to reduce pollution levels to the National and European Union targets by 2020, nor are they able to protect their own health by choosing to wear a face mask filter, like the people who live in the towns and cities of China and Japan, when they enter areas in Luton where they are at a high risk.
According to the 2016 report, Air pollution is monitored at sites in Luton within Luton Borough Council defined Air Quality Management Areas. One of these sites commenced monitoring on 30th October 2014. This site’s location is on the Dunstable Road(A505) near ‘Super Tyres’, midway between Leicester Road and Atherstone road. The site has two analysers: Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is monitored using a Thermo Scientific 42i analyser and particulates are measured in micrometres using a FIDAS 200 which records, Particulate Matter (PM) values; PM10, PM4, PM2.5 and PM1are measured separately. The FIDAS analyser was installed at the end of December 2014. The nitrogen dioxide analyser is calibrated every 2 weeks by Luton Borough Council officers. The FIDAS analyser requires no regular calibration other than that provided during service and maintenance. Air Monitors Limited have been contracted to service and maintain both analysers. Monitors are serviced on a 6 monthly basis and maintenance is undertaken as required.
The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) publish National air quality objectives and European Directive limits and target values for the protection of human health. The National legal limit for NO2 is 40 micrograms per cubic metre as an annual mean. The legal limit for PM2.5 is less than2.5 micrometres. The National Target is to reduce this pollutant by15% to less than 2.125 micrometres as an annual mean by 2020. The European legal obligation is to reduce this pollutant by 20% to less than 2 micrometres as an annual mean by 2020. Also, DEFRA publishes other legally binding objectives, limits and target values of pollutants for the protection of human health. For example, Ozone, Sulphur Dioxide and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. So far, the Council has chosen for reasons known only to itself, not to manage these pollutants by measuring them separately and mitigating their adverse health impacts, despite mounting legal and public pressure to do so.
According to a report ‘Doctors call for ban on schools being built in pollution hotspots’by Kat Lay in the Times newspaper page 11 October 2018. High levels of Nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas, can cause asthma attacks, coughing and difficulty breathing. PM2.5 refers to particulate matter of less than 30% of the width of a human hair and has been linked to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Children are thought to be particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe in more airborne particles relative to their lung size and body weight compared to adults, and because their tissues, immune systems and brains are developing.
Less than 0.2 miles East of the ‘Super Tyres’ air pollution monitoring site is Chaul End Community Centre, with its Five-a-side football pitch and a children’s play area. Services provided at this centre include a Nursery on Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 6pm and on Thursdays a NHS Breast Feeding Clinic. The community centre’s Nursery is at the front of the building close to the road and during this summer’s warm weather I witnessed, when visiting the NHS centre, children playing and eating their meal outside in the sunshine. Also, children and mothers were making full use of the play area at the centre. At peak journey times at around 8am and 6pm mothers collect their children from nursery before driving or walking them home.
The traffic flow past the centre is similar to that passing the monitoring site. The community centre, children’s play area and Five-a-side football pitch have no discernible mitigations in place to protect children, seniors, some of whom have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), those people needing respite care, and the centre’s staff from air pollution. According to the Times Newspaper report. Many schools are installing “green screens” or ‘hedgerows’, of plants such as Ivy around playgrounds near roads, which research suggests can reduce transport emissions by nearly a quarter.