Category Archives: Air Quality

What Areas of UK have the Worst Air Quality?

Top 4 Worst Areas for Air Quality in the UK

Air quality in the United Kingdom varies across different regions and cities. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the following areas in the UK have the worst air quality:

  • Greater London: Greater London has consistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, mainly due to road traffic emissions. In 2022, 16 out of the 20 local authorities in Greater London exceeded the annual legal limit for NO2.

image shows various shapes that represent the particles and organisms being discussed the virus is the smallest and the PM10 particle is the biggest

PM2.5 PM10 Relative Sizes

  • South Wales: South Wales has high levels of particulate matter (PM) pollution, mainly due to emissions from industrial processes and power plants. In 2022, four out of the five local authorities in South Wales exceeded the annual legal limit for PM10.

  • West Midlands: The West Midlands has high levels of NO2 pollution, mainly due to road traffic emissions. In 2022, four out of the seven local authorities in the West Midlands exceeded the annual legal limit for NO2.

  • Glasgow: Glasgow has high levels of NO2 pollution, mainly due to road traffic emissions. In 2022, Glasgow exceeded the annual legal limit for NO2.

Are these Always the Worst Places for Air Quality?

It is important to note that air quality can vary significantly within these areas, and there may be pockets of clean air even in areas with generally poor air quality. Additionally, air quality can vary from day to day depending on weather conditions and traffic levels.

Where can I find our more about Air Quality?

Here are some resources that you can use to find information about air quality in your area:

What Pollution is in the Air in London?

5 Mains Pollutants in the Air in London

The main sources of air pollution in London are road transport and domestic and commercial heating systems.This leads to a lowering of Air Quality.  These sources emit a variety of pollutants, including:

  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): NO2 is a reddish-brown gas that is produced when fossil fuels are burned. It is a major irritant to the lungs and can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Particulate matter (PM): PM is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. It can come from a variety of sources, including car exhaust, wood burning, and construction dust. PM can cause a variety of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
  • Ozone (O3): O3 is a gas that is formed when sunlight reacts with NO2 and other pollutants. It is a powerful irritant to the lungs and can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2): SO2 is a colorless gas that is produced when fossil fuels are burned. It is a major irritant to the lungs and can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): VOCs are a large group of chemicals that are released into the air from a variety of sources, including cars, factories, and paints. Some VOCs are known to be carcinogenic.

Lesser Know Pollutants in the Air in London

In addition to these main pollutants, air in London can also be contaminated with other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, lead, and mercury.

In addition to “chemicals” there is also a wide variety of plastic origin particle mater (POPP), this can come from laundry fibres and car tires.

a map showing air quality in central london yellow and green area are shown as being less polluted whilst red and purple areas are over the safe AQO limit, areas next to big ben and parliament square show as being above air quality objective

London Air Quality Network » Annual Pollution Maps

The levels of air pollution in London vary depending on the location and the time of year. Central London is generally the most polluted area, as it has the highest concentration of vehicles and other sources of pollution. Air pollution levels are also higher during the winter months, when people are more likely to burn wood for heating.

The Mayor of London has set a target of achieving world-class air quality by 2030. To achieve this goal, the city is implementing a variety of measures, including:

  • Reducing traffic emissions: The city is investing in public transportation, cycling infrastructure, and electric vehicles. ULEZs can also help reduce emissions from vehicles.
  • Improving energy efficiency: The city is helping businesses and residents to reduce their energy consumption, which will help to reduce air pollution emissions from heating and power generation. These schemes although available in theory are often difficult to apply for for, and they are not suitable for all people. For example swapping a gas boiler for a heat pump is only possible if your house is well insulated.
  • Planting trees and green spaces: Trees and other plants can help to filter air pollution and improve air quality. Some people even take it upon themselves to plant trees in their local neighbourhoods.

The city is also working with other cities and countries to share best practices and reduce air pollution on a global scale.

If you require an Air Quality Assessment in London or Bristol, or anywhere in the UK we are happy to help. Please contact us.

5 Air Quality Problems in London

London has a long history of poor air quality, and the problem has only worsened in recent years. The city’s air quality is now among the most polluted in Europe, and it is estimated that poor air quality contributes to the deaths of thousands of Londoners each year.

There are a number of factors that contribute to London’s poor air quality problem, including:

  • Road transport: Traffic congestion is a major source of poor air quality in London. Cars, buses, and trucks emit a variety of pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM), and carbon monoxide (CO).
  • Domestic heating: The burning of wood, coal, and other fuels for heating homes and businesses also contributes to poor air quality. These fuels emit a variety of pollutants, including NO2, PM, and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
  • Industry: Industrial activities, such as power generation and manufacturing, also emit a variety of pollutants. These pollutants can include NO2, PM, SO2, and heavy metals.
  • Construction: Construction activities, such as demolition and roadwork, can also contribute to poor air quality. These activities can generate dust and other pollutants that can be harmful to human health.
  • Agriculture: Agriculture can also contribute to poor air quality, particularly from the use of pesticides and fertilizers. These pollutants can be carried by the wind and can end up in the air in urban areas.

The effects of poor air quality can be far-reaching. Short-term exposure to poor air quality can cause respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Long-term exposure to poor air quality can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Poor air quality can also contribute to premature death.

The city of London is taking steps to address the poor air quality problem. These steps include:

  • Investing in public transportation: The city is investing in public transportation, such as buses, trains, and trams. This will help to reduce the number of cars on the road and, in turn, reduce poor air quality.
  • Introducing clean air zones: The city has introduced clean air zones in central London. These zones charge vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards. The aim of these zones is to reduce the number of polluting vehicles in the city center.
  • Encouraging people to walk and cycle: The city is encouraging people to walk and cycle more. This will help to reduce the number of cars on the road and, in turn, reduce poor air quality.
  • Working with businesses to reduce emissions: The city is working with businesses to reduce their emissions. This includes providing financial incentives and technical assistance to help businesses switch to cleaner technologies.

The city of London is making progress in addressing the poor air quality problem. However, there is still more work to be done. The city needs to continue to invest in public transportation, introduce clean air zones, and encourage people to walk and cycle more. Only then will London be able to achieve a healthy and sustainable air quality.

In addition to the city’s efforts, there are a number of things that individuals can do to reduce their impact on poor air quality. These include:

  • Drive less: If possible, walk, cycle, or take public transportation instead of driving.
  • Choose a fuel-efficient car: When you do need to drive, choose a car that is fuel-efficient.
  • Carpool or vanpool: If you can, carpool or vanpool with others to work or school.
  • Use public transportation: When possible, use public transportation instead of driving.
  • Walk or bike: If your destination is within walking or biking distance, walk or bike instead of driving.
  • Avoid idling your car: When you are stopped in traffic, turn off your car engine.
  • Keep your car well-maintained: Make sure your car is properly maintained, including regular oil changes and tune-ups.
  • Use less energy at home: You can reduce your energy use at home by making small changes, such as turning off lights when you leave a room, unplugging appliances when they are not in use, and weatherizing your home.
  • Plant trees: Trees help to improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen.

By taking these steps, individuals can help to reduce poor air quality and improve the quality of life for everyone in London.

Air Quality Assessment London 

Air Qaulity Assessment – New Kent Rd, London

Air Quality Assessment – New Kent Rd, London

Southwest Environmental Limited have recently written an Air Quality Assessment for a site on New Kent Rd, London (SE1), the Air Quality Assessment report is for a small scale project. We prepare Air Quality Assessment Reports for any scale of project.

In this case the proposed project was at low risk of creating impacts as it was a single residential dwelling, the main focus of the report was assessment of risk from nearby sources such as New Kent Road.

NOX and Fine Particulate Levels fall off dramatically with distance, proving there is no canyoning effect. But in this case the streets lined with terraced houses do creating a canyoning effect which may prevent the dispersion of air borne pollutants.

This affect is hard to estimate, but we have used a review of nearby reports to make an estimate of air quality at the receptor (house) location and believe this will satisfy planning officials, with burdening the developer with disproportionate costs associated with bespoke modelling.

Image Courtesy of Luton Anderson 

Indoor Air Quality Monitoring – Bristol

SWEL Air Quality Consultants Bristol were approached by a site manager in Bristol who was concerned with odours in one of his companies meeting rooms. Southwest Environmental attended site to make an assessment of what was occuring.

It looked as though some carpet tiles on the floor of the room identified were “melted” in some way. It is likely we thought that some sort of solvent had been spilled on the floor. . .or had been present when the tiles were laid.

We start a rapid monitoring program for the presence of VOCs in the room in line with occupational exposure limits. We also sent the carpet tiles for analysis, to find out:

  • The type of Resin use in their making
  • Foreign contaminants (such as solvents)
We are awaiting results on both the monitoring and the analysis and will make conclusions is due course. 

Air Quality Impact Assessment Horsham, West Sussex

Air Quality Impact Assessment Horsham, West Sussex

Southwest Environmental Limited were engaged to undertake an Air Quality Assessment in Horsham. Ordinarily we would undertake an Air Quality Assessment in support of a planning application. But in this instance we were engaged by a Housing Association to undertake an Air Quality Assessment for a proposed development adjacent to their property.

The Housing Association were concerned that dust and gaseous emissions from the proposed demolition and construction activities would impact on their residents health.

We had a great deal of support from the Environmental Health Officer at the District Council, who proved invaluable in ensuring  our documents were put before the right people.

When working against a planning application such as was the case here, the biggest problem is often getting you report (regardless of how valid the conclusions are) in front of anyone with power to act.

We were lucky in this instance that there were various conditions of planning which were left unfinished, and as such we were able to comment on these as they were discharged.

The Air Quality Assessment Focus on applicable management practices for dust mitigation, monitoring requirements and methods for both dust and gaseous emissions. The baseline air quality report which was submitted with the initial application was rather limited in scope despite being accepted as adequate. However, it proved useful as it provided an overview of available secondary air quality data for the area.

SWEL also undertook a Noise Impact Assessment at the same site.

Air Quality Assessment – Norfolk

Air Quality Assessment  – Norfolk

Acting on instructions from a client Southwest Environmental Limited have prepared a Air Quality Assessment for a site in Norfolk.

The site sees the development of an area of land, for industrial use. The area includes numerous sensitive receptors to air pollution, such as residential and schools.

There is also an air quality management area to the north of site, which is currently trying to meeting 40ug/m3 target set by the European Air Quality Regulations.

The assessment of risks in this instance relied on secondary data collected, and used as a baseline. With impacts considered throughout the construction and operational phases of the development.

The report was issued within 10 working days of commissioning. The conclusions were positive.

Air Quality Assessment

Expert Planning Objection – London

Expert Planning Objection – London

Southwest Environmental Limited (Environmental Consultants) were contacted by a residents group, who were trying to contest an application for a school in their neighbourhood. The residents group were concerned about the extra traffic generated by the proposed development and also as to whether the site was indeed suite for the intended use. 

An expert planning objection was prepared by Southwest Environmental we were requested that we limit our comments to those relating to air quality, although we would have happily commented on daylighting, traffic, or noise in this instance. 

The proposed school was situated on a busy junction, which has been subject to monitoring, for nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide has been shown to have chronic effects on the health of adults and children alike, although at present the is a great deal of uncertainty regarding safe exposure levels. 

To that end the European Union has set targets of 40ugm3 as an annual mean, and the site exceeds these values. There are have been various studies[1] that point to unsatisfactory air quality in the area, yet reports submitted in support of planning appear to show that this is not the case thus indicating a discrepancy.

In 2014 The European Commission launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to deal with air pollution. The EU reasoning behind case this was that levels of nitrogen dioxide, mainly from diesel engines, are “excessive” in many British cities. The Commission noted in its written statement at the time that nitrogen dioxide gas can lead to major respiratory illnesses and premature deaths.

It is important to note that there is no safe level set for exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is converted to nitric acid in the lungs, and this can exacerbate illnesses such as asthma, and other respiratory conditions. Studies[1] note the clear “associations between NO2 and respiratory problems among children”.

Air Quality Assessment – Brent, London (NW6)

Air Quality Assessment – Brent, London (NW6)

Acting on instructions from a client in Brent, London Southwest Environmental are to undertake a detailed indoor air quality assessment.

A resident approached Southwest Environmental Limited with concerns over the quality of air within their living space. It was thought that air quality might be lowered owing to the neighbouring property uses.

A passive monitoring scheme is being undertaken over a 30 days period so as to establish indoor air quality. A very wide spectrum of common air borne determinants are to be tested for including a range of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and nicotine.

Monitored levels will then be compared with known safe levels as published by the WHO, and HSE.

If you have any requirements for indoor air quality monitoring and subsequent interpretive anlaysis then pleas egt in touch we would be happy to discuss your needs.

Air Quality Consultants