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This Time it’s Personal – MPs Shocked by Air Quality Results

August 26, 2014
Environmental Protection

taxiLast month members of the government’s Environmental Audit Committee agreed to be fitted with personal exposure meters in a unique study aimed at highlighting the problem of poor air quality in UK cities. The project, co-ordinated by King’s College London, used monitors that measured the politicians’ exposure to black carbon combined with GPS data, giving researchers an idea of where members were exposed to the highest levels of pollution. The results, released this week, have given the MP’s plenty of food for thought.

Committee Chair Joan Whalley was shocked to discover that high levels were detected inside her vehicle when driving in her Stoke on Trent North constituency. Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, found levels of pollution three times higher in the centre of Manchester than along the nearby canal, while one of the highest readings was taken in a shared taxi outside the Houses of Parliament.

Project lead Dr Ben Barrett, who wants more people to have access to personal monitors, was encouraged by the findings, telling the BBC website: “In cities, we usually have choices. It’s common sense. If you think the pollution is coming from vehicle exhausts, try to avoid them. I see people jogging along busy roads. It’s crazy. Jog through a park, jog through a back street. It’s much more sensible, much more healthy.” In July the government admitted that London, Leeds and Birmingham are unlikely to meet European Union standards for nitrogen dioxide by 2025. Figures from Public Health England suggest that poor air quality is responsible for an estimated 29,000 deaths every year in the UK.