Toxic air kills 1,000 people a year in Liverpool region

1,040 deaths a year in the Liverpool City Region can be directly linked to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), according to a new study.

Commissioned by the British Lung Foundation and conducted by King’s College London, in partnership with UK100, the research examined the levels of NO2 and fine particulate matter PM2.5 across all six local authorities of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, in order to determine the burden air pollution placed on mortality.    

King’s calculated that the general public value the costs of air pollution at £480m per year and would accept this level of annual spending to mitigate the affects.

Road transport was identified as the primary source of Liverpool City Region’s toxic air. All Local authorities including Knowsley, Halton, Liverpool City, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral, had areas that either breached current legal limits set by the EU for NO2 or exceeded the recommended guideline set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on PM2.5.

The report found evidence of major health inequalities related to air pollution in Liverpool. The greatest impacts being faced by the poorest households, living in areas with the highest concentrations. Car ownership was found to be low amongst these groups, indicating that the people most affected are the least responsible for the problem, the researchers argue.

The report also finds primary school-aged children, born in Liverpool from 2011 onwards, could have a reduced average life expectancy of up to five months. 

In response to the study, Cllr Liam Robinson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority portfolio holder for transport and air quality, said: ‘We recognise that ensuring that everyone can breathe clean air is one of the most fundamental issues facing us today and an issue that we must address together – no single body can tackle it alone.

‘That’s why we set up an Air Quality Task Force last year and recently published our interim action plan.

‘Our most deprived communities, who already have to cope with multiple health problems, suffer most from the effects of polluted air. 

‘We are already doing a lot, with seven-out-of-ten buses in the city region using low emission fuel sources; we’re undertaking pioneering work to develop trains that run on hydrogen; and we’re building on our strength in offshore wind with the development of our potentially world-leading Mersey Tidal Power scheme.

‘Our Air Quality interim action plan sets out a number of recommendations for how we can tackle the issue but we also need decisive action from central government.’

Read the full report here.

Liverpool County Council (LCC) is one of the 62 local authorities mandated by central government to reduce NO2 levels in line with legal limits and has submitted an outline business case to Defra to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

In October, Sefton Council in Merseyside announced they will explore introducing a CAZ to help improve air quality, after losing a fight with Highways England who will build a £250m dual carriageway through the region.  

The BLF is calling on policy makers nationally and across the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to be ambitious and broad in their wider clean air plans, with strong targets and clear measures to deliver lower and safer levels of air pollution.  

Zak Bond, policy & public affairs officer at the British Lung Foundation, said:  ’Liverpool has some of the highest levels of lung disease and deprivation in the country and as these groups are most at risk from toxic air, we need politicians to take fast action to remove the dirtiest vehicles from the most polluted roads through Clean Air Zones.  

‘This must be backed by comprehensive clean air plans across the region to tackle all kinds of air pollution and support people to use green public transport, or walk or cycle, instead of driving. Central government must also set legal binding targets to achieve WHO guideline levels of fine particulate matter, as a minimum, by 2030.’

Writing for Air Quality News in December, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson wrote that ‘our grandchildren’s lives are at stake if we don’t take air pollution seriously.’

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