When the government is asked to clean up the UK’s poisonous air, they often use the same sound bite: “Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010”. It’s meant to reassure the public that our government is doing what is necessary to protect UK children from the poisonous air they breathe every day they travel to nursery or school. But is it true?
If you’re measuring air pollution at locations where action to reduce pollution is taking place, then yes, you can see significant improvements. For example, Putney High Street where a lot of time and money has been spent measuring pollution levels and applying solutions like retrofitting the diesel buses responsible for much of the pollution there.
But what about the thousands of other locations that are not being measured and where no action has taken place? Has air pollution significantly improved there?
Putney High Street’s Dirty Big Sister
From Tibbets Corner you can travel down Putney Hill to Putney High Street and over Putney Bridge, or you can travel down West Hill to Wandsworth and over Wandsworth Bridge.
Instead of hundreds of buses, West Hill has hundreds of HGV’s, coaches, lorries, trucks travelling from the South of England and every day they come to a grinding halt as three lanes of traffic converge into a single lane to trickle down West Hill and join with the South Circular.
West Hill is a highly populated residential area with a nursery, a hospital, apartment blocks, a care home for the elderly, large council estates and a school with over 1100 children, all a pavement’s width away from the slow moving or idling traffic.
Pollution levels have never been measured on West Hill and little or no action to reduce pollution levels has taken place.
And that’s the governments secret to success; a very small proportion of the UK has local air quality monitoring data, the rest is based on modelling and estimates. If they don’t measure pollution levels at a location, then they can rely on their own guesstimates and say that air pollution has improved significantly since 2010.
Local Authorities have not been given the resources to effectively monitor local air quality and the cost for individual members of the public to do so is restrictive, at around £6,000 per monitor.
Perhaps sometime soon, thousands of concerned parents and citizens will take matters into their own hands, contribute a few pounds each to buy an air monitor and measure local pollution levels for themselves?
Here’s a fundraising platform www.littleninja.co.uk/yourarea to do just that. Let’s see what happens.