Monitoring of air quality and health impacts

Air quality monitoring in Lancashire 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website has the latest air pollution details across the UK. The interactive AURN map reveals a large number of sites that include automatic monitoring stations in Preston, Blackpool and Blackburn. Each monitoring site contains links to allow users to view the last hour's data and graphs of measurements over the last week. The current levels web page allows comparisons to be made between the constantly refreshed figures for the three Lancashire sites, and the results for all the other sites across the country. Forecast levels can be viewed, and the health implications of the categories (low, moderate, high, very high) are explained. The three sites all measure NOx levels (oxides of nitrogen) which are important pollutants, but the Preston and Blackpool sites measure other pollutants including ozone and particulates. There is also a monitoring station at Hazelrigg near Lancaster University, which measures different classes of pollutants to the above, including toxic organic micro pollutants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In order to view this site on the interactive map it will be necessary to change the network filter to PAH or TOMPS. Stations at Mere Sands Wood and Myerscough also monitor for gaseous ammonia.

Each local authority in the UK carries out an assessment of air quality in their area. This involves measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change in the next few years. If an authority finds an air quality issue in a particular locality, it must declare an air quality management area (AQMA) that could be just one or two streets, or cover a much larger locality. The authority will then put together a plan to improve the air quality. AQMAs are in place in a number of Lancashire authorities. 

The Lancashire local authorities of Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, HyndburnLancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South RibbleWest Lancashire and Wyre have websites that contain additional details regarding local air quality and designated management areas. Burnley and Fylde also have articles on the subject.

The Defra website also mentions the air quality grants programme that allows local authorities to improve air quality.

Measuring the health impact of air quality in Lancashire 

The Public Health England website (Public Health Outcomes Framework) has details for the county and unitary areas and individual districts in England.  The health protection indicator (3.01) considers the fraction of mortality in each area attributable to particulate air pollution. The 2015 results revealed that the rate for England was 4.7%. The values for the Lancashire authorities are shown in Table 1. Blackpool, Burnley and Chorley have higher rates than the England value in this latest available dataset.

Table 1. Mortality attributable to particulate air pollution, 2015

Lancashire districts % mortality
Burnley 5.02
Chorley 4.79
Fylde 3.83
Hyndburn 3.90
Lancaster 4.25
Pendle 3.67
Preston 3.79
Ribble Valley 3.73
Rossendale 3.60
South Ribble 3.74
West Lancashire 4.14
Wyre 4.09
   
Lancashire-12 average 4.1
Blackburn with Darwen 3.74
Blackpool 5.48

Source: Public Health England

We have carried out additional analysis of the NAEI data for PM2.5 particulate emissions, calculating an average (annual tonnes per square kilometre) value for all of the English district authorities. In Figure 1 these values are plotted against the corresponding fractions of mortality attributable to particulate air pollution (for persons aged over 30). The Lancashire-12 districts are coloured light gold and the 2 unitary authorities are coloured darker gold. Blackpool is the worst for this indicator of mortality and average emissions in Lancashire, but appears much better than in 2014. This scatter plot is a Microsoft Power BI slide, so by pointing the cursor at any data point, the indicator values can be read off. It can also be made to expand to full-screen size by clicking on the double-headed diagonal arrow in the right hand corner of the slide's grey coloured footer. We have supplied the data behind this in an Excel download.

Figure 1. Mortality attributable to particulate pollution and particulate emissions, English districts, 2015

 

 
Source: NAEI, Public Health England, LCC Business Intelligence

The committee on the medical effects of air pollutants (COMEAP) provides advice to government on how air pollution impacts on health. In March 2015, COMEAP issued statements on the health effects of exposure to particulate air pollution and nitrogen dioxide.  

The government's natural environment indicators report for England includes section 12, which considers environmental quality and health. 

Page updated November 2017