Monday, November 14, 2011

Tens of thousands at risk over UK air pollution

Nina Lakhani in the Independent (UK): Tens of thousands of Britons die from man-made air pollution every year but the Government is trying to water-down safety standards and shift blame to councils rather than tackling the problem, according to Parliament's green watchdog.

Latest figures suggest that air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of 200,000 people in 2008, hitting urban poor communities the hardest. Treating victims of Britain's dirty air for lung and heart diseases costs as much as £20bn every year. Yet neither Defra nor Department of Transport mention air quality in their business plans - despite Coalition promises to work towards EU air quality standards.

The Environmental Audit Committee inquiry, published today, showed that the government has “failed to get to grips” with the issue since the Committee's damming 2010 report shone a spotlight on the scale of the problem. Instead, it has shifted responsibility to local authorities as part of its localism agenda. This could, under the Localism Bill, leave councils facing tens of millions of pounds in fines despite having no control over some pollution sources.

Joan Walley, chair of the Committee, said: “It is a national scandal that thousands of people are still dying from air pollution in the UK in 2011 - and the government is taking no responsibility for this. Despite a coalition pledge to meet European safety standards on air pollution, the Government appears to be lobbying behind the scenes to water these rules down.”...

A factory pumping out pollution in the UK, near Penrith, shot by Malcolm Street, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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