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Somerset Air Pollution Targeted For Reduction

Air Pollution in the UK has a significant impact on life expectancy, according to Public Health England (PHE). An estimated 29,000 people die each year due to air pollution related causes. The main conditions that make up these untimely deaths are respiratory ailments, cancers, birth defects and cardiovascular disease.

Impact of Air Pollution in Somerset

PHE data shows that of the 5558 deaths of Somerset residents aged over 25, an estimated 244 were attributable to particulate air pollution. What makes this figure even more striking is that it broadly in line with the number of deaths linked to alcohol. PHE put the number of life years lost in Somerset alone at 2356. These figures are almost certainly a significant underestimate of the true impact of air pollution. They don’t include the impact of other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

What is Particulate Air Pollution?

Particulate air pollution mortality is measured by those deaths attributable to PM2.5. This is particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometres. These microscopic particles have a diameter less than 3% of a human hair. Due to their size, they stay in the air longer than heavier particles and can penetrate deep into the lungs and even circulatory system. These minute particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, road traffic, airplanes, domestic wood burners and agricultural fires.

How Are Somerset Scientific Services Helping?

Somerset Scientific Services provide diffusion tube monitoring to Somerset County Council and other local authorities, who are required to regularly review and assess local air quality. Where quality levels are exceeded, the local authority must identify areas for management and set out measures for improvement.

Plans For Air Quality Improvement In Somerset

There are three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in Somerset: Yeovil, Henlade and East Reach in Taunton. A bypass for Henlade could improve air quality in the area, if Highways England proposals for A358 upgrades go ahead. The Northern Inner Distributor Road (NIDR) opened in Taunton last year, reducing traffic through the town centre. There are also proposals to restrict motor traffic in the town centre, and monitoring will establish whether this improves local air quality. Somerset County Council’s Air Quality Steering Group will continue to work on four key priorities. These are to better communicate with and influence key partners, to work more closely with planners, to work more closely with Highways, and to continue with air pollution monitoring to better inform future decisions.

Data taken from PHE, Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution, 2014