Government And Greens Mislead Public On Air Quality
No Need to Restrict Car Use on Pollution Grounds
This week, the government has been accused of suppressing a report prepared by Imperial College London for the Department of Health. This study accused the DETR and the Environment Agency of producing misleading information in both public statements and guidelines to local authorities on air quality issues.
Meanwhile, environmental groups have been on the radio using the fact that rural low level ozone exceeded limits on a few more days than usual in 1999 (because of the hot summer) to create the entirely false impression that air pollution is worsening and that cars are to blame and must therefore be restricted.
The Association of British Drivers has for many years been pointing out the true facts about air quality - facts which give the car a clean bill of health:
- Modern cars are 20 times cleaner than older ones.
- Emissions of regulated substances have fallen throughout the 1990s and will continue to fall in the future even at the highest predicted levels of traffic growth.
- Emissions of car related pollutants are projected by the Governments own figures to fall between 60 and 80% below their 1990 levels by 2010.
- Levels of the seven measured pollutants are almost always well within guidelines at all the measuring sites.
- The one exhaust pollutant which may be associated with health problems (particulates) comes mainly from public transport in town centres.
- Ozone is a secondary pollutant which arises from complex reactions between sunlight and both man made and naturally occurring chemicals. It is actually broken down by nitrous oxide and so tends to be present at lower levels in areas where traffic is heavier. Consequently, reducing Nitrous Oxide emissions is certain to result in higher Ozone in some areas.
- There is no justification whatsoever for restricting car use based on air quality.
"We have made these points clear to both Government and media on many occasions," said ABD environment spokesman Bernard Abrams. "We are disappointed that both the greens and the DETR continue to ignore what we say and mislead the public about the heath effects of exhaust pollution in order to justify restrictions on car use."
"Now we find that a scientific report, prepared for the Department of Health, and which backs everything we have been saying about air quality, is being suppressed by the Government in the very week when they are publishing plans for new restrictions to improve air quality at great cost to the country."
The Government, in the shape of new Transport Minister Lord MacDonald, claim they are not against the car. If they mean this then they must:
- Stop conniving with the Greens at all levels to spread false concerns about the health effects of exhaust emissions as an excuse to make life more difficult for drivers.
- Set the record straight on air quality, exhaust emissions and cars
Summary of main points reported in the media about the Imperial College report:
The Daily Telegraph
- Public authorities "actively promote atmospheric pollution as a major health problem", but fail to point out that levels of toxic emissions by vehicles are falling substantially despite traffic growth.
- The DETR "clearly makes the (false) linkage between air quality and health as the primary rationale for traffic reduction" in guidelines issued to local authorities.
- The advice named eight pollutants as causing "particular concern" when a Department of Health committee rated five of these as harmless.
- Another DETR document referred to the same committee's report as suggesting that poor air quality might hasten the deaths of 12,000 to 24,000 people a year. It omitted the qualification that many such deaths were brought forward by only "a few days or weeks".
- The DETR seems to consider traffic's adverse effect on health "as self-evident rather than being a matter that could be open to question".
- It points to evidence that, since 1992 and the introduction of catalytic exhaust converters, emissions of nitrous oxides had fallen 65 per cent, particulates 62 per cent, carbon monoxide 61 per cent, hydrocarbons 56 per cent and benzene 51 per cent.
- The DETR's programme over the last three years, costing at least £25 million, to introduce national air quality standards and establish "low emission zones" had not been justified on grounds of saved health costs.
- Efforts to restrict transport might "cause more damage to quality of life, and health in particular, than the pollutants they are designed to eliminate".
Traffic Fumes 'do not harm London health'
BBC Local news
"Health ministers were initially reluctant to publish the new report, by respected academics, because it counters previous government beliefs........It's finding that "few traffic measures are justifiable on health grounds" will spark intense debate on the eve of the government's announcement of plans to cut the amount of traffic"
Interviewing Prof. Stephen Glaistor of Imperial College London, who have just released the results of study into London's air quality.
"London has the cleanest air of most of the world's capital cities and the environmentals are painting an untrue picture. Car emissions are not doing us any harm and we would all get healthier if we gave up smoking and did more walking, especially in central London."