Millions at risk from polluted air too dangerous to breathe–Royal College of Physicians

By Paul Homewood



h/t Mark Rogers



The Royal College of Physicians are the latest to jump on the air pollution scare:




Millions of people in British cities are inhaling air considered by the World Health Organisation to be too dangerous to breathe, a report has shown.

Out of 51 UK cities and towns listed in an air-quality database, 44 fail the WHO’s test for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that have been linked to heart disease and premature death.

Exposure to the particles, known as PM2.5s, should not exceed ten micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to the health organisation.

But in numerous British population centres annual average levels are higher, sometimes by a significant degree, it is claimed.

Glasgow emerged as one of the most polluted cities, with a PM2.5 concentration of 16 micrograms per cubic metre.

London and Leeds both had 15 micrograms of the particles in every cubic metre-sized parcel of air, Cardiff and Birmingham 14, and Manchester 13.

Perhaps surprisingly, the seaside resort of Eastbourne and port city of Southampton equalled London’s exposure level, while Oxford was surrounded by air as polluted by fine particles as Cardiff.

Each year, outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths in the UK — up to 9,000 in London alone — and cost the country £22.6 billion.

Dr Toby Hillman, one of the report’s authors from the Royal College of Physicians, said: “There isn’t a safe limit for the amount of pollution that’s been defined as yet and we know the effects of poor air quality run from cradle to grave; it’s a lifetime threat to human health.

“This is a really direct and tangible impact on UK health from the drivers of climate change, and taking action on air quality should be a priority.”

The impact of air pollution in UK cities forms part of a major investigation, led by a top medical journal, looking at the health and social costs of climate change around the world.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change brought together 24 institutions and intergovernmental organisations including the WHO and World Meteorological Organisation.

It found that global exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels had increased by 11.2 per cent since 1990, with more than 70 per cent of cities exceeding WHO PM2.5 limits.

Many British cities and towns also broke the WHO limits for PM10s, slightly larger sooty specks considered less of a hazard than ultra-fine particles but still harmful to health.

The authors acknowledged that European Union air-quality guidelines were far less stringent than those of the WHO, with an upper safety limit for PM2.5s of 25 micrograms per cubic metre. However, they said the WHO limits represented a “safer threshold”.

The report added that 802 London schools and a high proportion of the capital’s hospitals and clinics were located in highly polluted areas “potentially putting some of society’s most vulnerable people at risk”.

Diesel-powered vehicles, which generate pollution particles, were one of the “key drivers” of poor air quality in towns and cities in the UK, said Dr Hillman.

“Unfortunately previous policies about encouraging diesel adoption have led to an increase in the amount of diesel-related pollution,” he said.


First of all, let’s remember that emissions of PM2.5s has fallen dramatically since 1970:




Ironically, as DEFRA point out, road transport only accounts for 13% of PM2.5, with the bulk coming from combustion. This in turn is dominated by the use of wood as a domestic fuel:



As the Times article points out, the authors acknowledged that European Union air-quality guidelines were far less stringent than those of the WHO, with an upper safety limit for PM2.5s of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

Even the highest readings in London and Leeds of 15 micrograms per cubic metre are well within this safety limit.

Indeed, according to the Met Office Air Quality Index, even measurements of 35 µg m−3  are regarded as low:





Currently the whole of the UK is within the low band for overall air quality, though ironically the worst areas are in the South West and Scottish Highlands where you would expect the best air quality. (Maybe this tells us something about how low our levels of air pollution really are).




Locally around Yorkshire, PM 2.5s are about 14 µgm-3:




Quite why the RCP chooses to ignore EU guidelines and cherry pick the WHO ones is a mystery. After all, this is the same WHO who recently appointed a certain Robert Mugabe to be their goodwill ambassador!

And if you want to know what real pollution looks like, just check out the map below that the Guardian published last year.


ScreenHunter_1499 Oct. 31 13.33


This latest report is a really dishonest attempt to influence public policy by the RCP, who appear to have their own agenda.

In the meantime, we are all entitled to wonder why we all did not die years ago if our air is now too dangerous to breathe.



Full details of the report are available from the RCP here:


October 31, 2017 at 09:15AM

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