Sun, Jun 27, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Britain faces fines over City of London air pollution

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The City of London was on Thursday found to be one of the most polluted places in Europe after monitoring equipment recorded dangerous levels of minute particles for the 36th time this year. Under EU rules, Britain is allowed no more than 35 “bad air” days in the whole year and it now faces court cases and unlimited fines by Europe.

The breaching of the EU levels after just six months will embarrass the UK government, which was sent a final warning only three weeks ago from the European Commission to improve air quality. Many other places in central London are close to the limit and can be expected to break the law within weeks.

The government has applied to Europe for a time extension until next year to comply with daily particulate pollution from traffic, but it is not certain to be granted because it has been flouting EU air quality laws since 2005 and is perceived by European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik to have done little to address the problem.

“Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions,” Potocnik said.

London Liberal Democrat MEP (member of the European parliament) Sarah Ludford said: “This latest breach is yet another wake-up call for the mayor of London and the government. Research has shown that airborne pollution in London could be responsible for up to thousands of premature deaths a year. This is an invisible public health emergency.”

Poor air quality is considered one of the biggest public health issues now facing the UK. A recent report by the House of Commons environmental audit committee included evidence that air pollution could be contributing to 50,000 deaths in the UK a year.

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