Friends of the Earth (FoE) have conducted research that focused on ethnic groups living in neighbourhoods with extra high levels of emissions, particularly PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide). According to the study, people of colour are three times more likely to suffer from air pollution compared to non-minority or white residents living in some of the cleanest neighbourhoods in England.
The research studied around 2,546 UK neighbourhoods with current NO2 or PM2.5 recording levels that are two times over the World Health Organization or WHO-recommended maximum limits. Even if these communities have fewer vehicles compared to the national average, they were still regularly exposed to toxic emissions from congested roads and road traffic.
Researchers also discovered that over 900 of around 1,737 schools located in the said neighbourhoods had air pollution levels that were two times over WHO guidelines. All the schools are situated in London. Additionally, many of the residents are young adults and children who are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic air.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah – the mother of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old who died from air pollution in 2013 – said that researchers presented proof that urgent action is needed if the UK government is to properly address the problem of air pollution. She reiterated (as she does all the time) how important it is to allow everyone to breathe clean air. Rosamund’s Ella Roberta Foundation was established as a result of her nine-year-old daughter’s death, which was eventually ruled as the first case in Britain where air pollution was formally identified as the cause of death.
She was also urging Liz Truss – who was briefly the prime minister – to treat the air pollution issue with urgency, especially since new targets are expected to come out at the end of October. At present, the UK’s targets do not follow WHO guidelines.
The neighbourhoods covered by the FoE research had a 44% average minority ethnic population. Throughout England, residents with minority ethnic backgrounds are around 16.1% of the total neighbourhood population. Meanwhile, in areas where the air is cleanest and safest, people of colour made up only 2 to 4% of the total population.
Another detail that the research revealed is the fact that lower-income areas are also significantly affected by air pollution. Around half of the most deprived neighbourhoods have high levels of air pollution.
In the areas the study covered, around 97% of the neighbourhoods had PM2.5 levels that were over the WHO guidelines. NO2 levels, on the other hand, were 50% above the WHO limits.
While the UK government has tightened PM2.5 limits to achieve its 2040 target of 10µg/m3 to match WHO guidelines, NO2 legal limits have remained the same at 40µg/m3 (versus the WHO’s 10µg/m3).
These research findings should set the government into action. Their 2040 target should be set earlier, according to the FoE, as this can be a good starting point for forming new WHO limits for the UK. The government and the residents need to work together towards reducing air pollution and creating a safer and cleaner future for children (and their families).
Air pollution implications
Exposure to air pollution, specifically PM2.5 and NO2, has adverse effects and can lead to several health issues. Breathing in PM2.5, which can reach the bloodstream, can cause health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. It has also been linked to dementia.
Being exposed to NO2 can lead to inflammation of the airways, shortness of breath, mucus build-up, and coughing. Children exposed to NO2 emissions will find their growth significantly affected.
Emissions from road transport or nitrogen oxide (NOx), which has NO2 and NO or nitric oxide as components, can also lead to adverse health impacts, including asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory diseases, and premature death. Over the years, toxic air has become a primary cause of early deaths worldwide.
Vehicle emissions and Dieselgate
Road transport or vehicle emissions have been in the spotlight since 2015 after the Volkswagen Group was found to have installed defeat devices in Audi and VW diesel vehicles sold in the US. A defeat device is designed to know when a vehicle is being tested so that it can manipulate emissions levels and keep these within the WHO-mandated limits. This allows authorities to see a high-performing and environmentally clean and safe vehicle.
However, when the vehicle is driven on real roads, it emits voluminous amounts of nitrogen oxide, often at multiple levels over the WHO and EU limits. As such, the vehicle is highly polluting, and Volkswagen lied to their customers.
Also implicated in the diesel emissions scandal are Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Renault. These carmakers, including the VW Group, have spent billions in fines, settlement fees, compensation, and legal costs. They’ve also recalled thousands upon thousands of affected vehicles for engine correction.
Drivers affected by the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal should hold their carmakers responsible for the environmental, financial, and health-related inconveniences they have experienced. The best way to do this is to bring a claim against them for their unlawful act.
Before you or any other car owner can make a claim, though, you should first verify your eligibility to do so. To determine if you are eligible to make a diesel claim, visit ClaimExperts.co.uk. They have all the important information you need.