Air pollution does NOT discriminate. We all need to breathe.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s Air Quality Report 2020 states:
Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. It is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer. Additionally, air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people, and those with heart and lung conditions. There is also often a strong correlation with equalities issues, because areas with poor air quality are also often the less affluent areas.
The report goes onto say:
Currently there is no monitoring of particulate air pollution – PM10 or PM2.5 – completed within Folkestone and Hythe District. As such no concentration values can be reported or estimated by our Council or DEFRA.
This was confirmed by Cllr Stuart Peal back in June 2019.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says particulate pollution from fine particulate matter, PM2.5 should not exceed an annual mean of 10 μg/m3. For PM10 the limit is 20 µg/m3 annual mean. But the UK currently has higher limits for fine particulate matter: 40 µg/m3 annual mean for PM10 and 25 µg/m3 for PM2.5.
But our Council does not have any idea if these limits are being exceeded, or what affect they are having on the districts children, or adults, who suffer from respiratory illnesses.
In Dec 2020 a coroner made legal history by ruling that air pollution was the cause of death of a nine-year-old girl -Ella Kissi-Debrah (pictured).
The Coroner said:
“Ella died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution,”
There is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements. Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK.”
Under s34 of the Clean Air Act 1993, our Council has a moral obligation to ask why the statistics for our district put us in joint third place for emergency hospital admissions for asthma in children and young people aged 0-19 years, when a seaside location would suggest we should be among the healthiest districts in which to live.
The legislation states:
(1) a local authority may—
(a) undertake, or contribute towards the cost of, investigation and research relevant to the problem of air pollution;
(b) arrange for the publication of information on that problem;
(c) arrange for the delivery of lectures and addresses, and the holding of discussions, on that problem;
(d) arrange for the display of pictures, cinematograph films or models, or the holding of exhibitions, relating to that problem; and
(e) prepare, or join in or contribute to the cost of the preparation of, pictures, films, models or exhibitions to be displayed or held as mentioned in paragraph (d).
According to the Kent Public Health Observatory (KPHO), 9% (10,200) of the Folkestone & Hythe population die a premature death from respiratory illnesses and and 7.8% (8,588) live with long term respiratory illnesses.
Our district, as we said, is ranked joint third of all 12 districts for the number of emergency hospital admissions for asthma in children and young people aged 0-19 years, according the KPHO.
How many of these emergency admissions into hospital for asthma, are caused by PM10 and PM2.5 air pollution is not known, as the district does not measure these pollutants.
In a study published in the BMJ, in August 2020, , the study made it clear youngsters exposed to higher levels of air pollution – measured through particulate matter or PM2.5 – were more likely to have asthma or a persistent wheeze. And given we are joint third for emergency hospital admissions for asthma in young people aged 0-19, demonstrates sufficient possibility of a correlation to warrant the research and investigation.
Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green) as the Cabinet Member responsible for air quality is supported by statutory legislation – Clean Air Act 1993 – and could initiate research to discover how strong any correlation between PM10 & PM2.5 and emergency hospital admissions for asthma across our district is.
Does she care enough to undertake the research by asking the question why our community, who enjoy the fresh air of the English Channel; and the Garden of England, has worse emergency hospital admissions for asthma than that of disgusted from Tunbridge Wells?
After these questions, a solution might be for the Council to plant more trees than what they state in their Grounds Maintenance Initiatives slideshow (slide 8):
“we will be planting between thirty to forty trees [annually]… over the next ten years or so.”
According to a report written by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and published by the Office of National Statistics, plants and trees are ‘not the solution’ to air pollution, as vegetation will not solve the whole issue of air quality in the UK.
However, the report did say:
Woodland dominated the removal of Particulate Matter (PM10 & PM2.5), whilst agricultural land (accounting for 4.3 times as much land area), dominated the removal of gaseous pollutants [No2, Co2 etc], the report suggested.
So planting thirty to forty trees annually is not enough, nor is concreting over the 756 hectare, 10,000 home Otterpool Park site (mainly farmland), as trees would reduce PM10 and PM2.5 and farmland would remove Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).
By undertaking the research, the Council & Cllr Lesley Whybrow would demonstrate the most vulnerable in community: children and older people and those with heart and lung conditions matter. Air pollution does NOT discriminate. We all need to breathe, we just don’t need to breathe PM10 and PM2.5. So let the research begin.
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime