Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Harmful particulate levels from traffic to be measured at last

Harmful particulate levels from traffic to be measured at last

THE level of harmful particulates from traffic in Henley is to be measured officially for the first time.

The town council is to conduct a pilot study to detect the amount of microscopic carbon particles in the air, which come mostly from diesel exhaust emissions but also brake pads.

Environmental campaigners have insisted for years that these contribute to the town’s air quality problem but South Oxfordshire District Council, which is responsible for air quality management, has always denied this.

The town council has chosen a 12-month study costing £16,830, to which it and the district council will each contribute £5,915 and Remenham Parish Council will provide £5,000.

There will be data reports every three months.

A single solar-powered sensor will be installed at first-floor level on a building in Greys Road, near the junction with Duke Street and Reading Road.

The sensor will be provided by Ricardo, the district council’s preferred air quality experts.

If this finds that particulate levels are dangerously high then the council will be legally obliged to take action.

It has monitored air quality in the town centre since 1998 and made it an air quality management area in 2003 but this is solely focused on nitrogen dioxide, an exhaust gas which irritates the lungs and causes respiratory problems such as asthma.

Particulates can have a similar effect but have also been blamed for conditions such lung cancer and kidney disease. Some types, known as “fine particulates”, are so small that they can pass from the lungs to the bloodstream.

David Dickie, of the Cleaner Air for Henley campaign, has conducted unofficial readings which he says showed that particulates levels are rising.

Town and district councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, who chairs the town council’s transport strategy group, said: “We’re convinced that we have a particulate problem but need to gather scientific data to make the district council do something about it.

“These are very expensive machines so we will be effectively renting them from Ricardo, which will conduct the analysis.

“A second sensor would increase the total cost to £14,000 so we will stick with one as we’ll have the option to move it.

“Until recently it was a chicken-and-egg situation as the district council said it couldn’t take action on particulates as it had no data but then it wouldn’t support the study needed to get that data. We’re glad that they’re now open to the idea as this is the only place in the district where a study is going to be carried out. The World Health Organisation’s data shows that particulates are very harmful.

“The issue is rising further and further up the agenda and it’s reaching the point where we have to do something about it.”

Mr Dickie said: “This is a proposal to approach the issue properly so I’m delighted. Particulates are expensive to measure, which is why so many people avoid it, but they are so dangerous because they can get everywhere in the body.”

The town council hopes to implement several other schemes to tackle air pollution including new cycle routes, planters filled with plants that absorb air pollution, a 20mph speed limit in the town centre and additional charging points for electric vehicles.

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