Air Monitoring

  • 9 English Cities have 'Unsafe' PM10 Levels
    Nine English cities have high PM10 levels

9 English Cities have 'Unsafe' PM10 Levels

May 12 2014 Read 2601 Times

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that nine towns and cities in England are in breach of air pollution safety guidelines. In its report looking at the levels of particulate matter in cities throughout the world, it was found that air quality in nine areas of England stands at unhealthy levels.

Each year, the WHO identifies safe levels of particulate matter, which are usually below the safe limits as set by the EU. Currently, the WHO identifies safe levels of PM10 - particulate matter measuring under ten micrometres - as under 20 micrograms per cubic metre. This is much lower than the EU's safe particulate matter level, which stands at 40 micrograms per cubic metre.  

London, Southampton, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham, Thurrock and Chesterfield have all been named as cities in England that breach the WHO's guidelines for PM10 pollution. Although each of these areas has air quality that can be classed as unsafe by the organisation, the levels of air pollution are still reasonably low when compared to many other cities across the world.

Some of the main culprits for pushing up the levels of PM10 in each of these areas are industry road transport and heating systems - both commercial and domestic. However, it is thought that road transport is one of the biggest problems in many of the cities, creating areas of high concentrations of particulate matter. 

Steve Arnold, associate professor of atmospheric composition at the University of Leeds, told the BBC: "The main cause of this pollution in the UK is motor vehicles and that is the local source that really gives us high concentrations of these small particles in city centres.

"In the past, things like domestic heating from coal in cities would have been a problem, but that is not really an issue anymore, and it is road traffic.

"Places like Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, are post-industrial large cities with large urban populations, where there are a lot of cars."

Of the nine cities that topped the WHO's list for England, Thurrock and Nottingham were at the top of list with PM10 levels measured at 25 micrograms per cubic metre. Leeds and Southampton were at the bottom of the list with 21 micrograms per cubic metre.

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