BBC News reports on UK governments new Clean air strategy citing data from Imperial College on the UK concentrations of PM2.5 in 2016

BBC News reports on UK governments new Clean air strategy

In their Clean Air Strategy, published today, the government promises to set a "bold new goal" to reduce particulates across much of the country by 2030.

While overall levels of air pollution have been declining in recent decades, there has also been a growing scientific awareness of the scale of problems that it causes.

NHS England says that almost 30% of preventable deaths in England are due to non-communicable diseases specifically attributed to air pollution.

A pollutant called Particulate Matter (PM) is a particular concern with the World Health Organization (WHO) identifying it as the most damaging for people. Fine particulates, known as PM2.5, are around 200 times smaller than a grain of sand. They are a major health worry as they can penetrate deep into your lungs, pass into your bloodstream and get embedded in your bodily organs and your brain.

The WHO's models indicate that around 92% of the world's population live in places where air quality levels exceed their guidelines.In the UK, more than 40 cities and towns were at, or have exceeded, the WHO limit. The government has previously said it will reduce by half the number of people living in areas breaching the WHO limits by 2025. But they now say they will go beyond this and set a "world leading" goal on exposure to PM2.5. Without giving many details, or a timeline, the government says that by 2030, fine particulate concentrations will be reduced below the WHO safe level "across much of the country". The government says it will publish evidence early in 2019 on what actions will be needed to meet this new target. Ministers argue that Brexit will allow the UK to go much further on this issue than the EU and become the first major economy to adopt air quality goals based on WHO recommendations.

As well as trying to deal with the major sources of particulate matter, the government's plan also deals with pollution that arises from ammonia, sulphur dioxide and non-methane volatile organic compounds. Ammonia from farms is a major focus as outlined above, for the role it plays in the development of PM. However, it also poses major threats to sensitive natural habitats. "Ammonia in the air over our farmlands dissolves into our wetlands and waterways and wreaks havoc on delicate aquatic ecosystems," said Hannah Freeman from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. "The proposed measures are a step forward, but what we really want is government policy that supports farmers to be true stewards, holistically managing our air, soil and water together." More details on this BBC report can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46823440