“Everyone has a part to play in reducing air pollution that is killing as many as 50,000 people every year in the UK,” says Dr Kevin Wyche, lecturer on our Geography BA(Hons) course.
He was commenting on BBC Sussex Radio about latest figures showing pollution levels in parts of Brighton and Hove remain above EU and UK standards, and how London breached its limits for the entire year only a few days into 2017.
Dr Wyche, who with Dr Kirsty Smallbone launched a £250,000 advanced air quality monitoring station at Falmer in 2015, said reducing pollution was a complex issue: “It’s politically sensitive – should we ban all cars from city centres? It’s not politically favourable for a politician to say that.”
All of us, he said, has a part to play in cutting pollution: “We all like to use our cars and we all have gadgets at home which use electricity which comes from power stations which are pumping out all sorts of different gases and particles into the atmosphere.”
The Joaquin Advanced Air Quality Station (JAAQS), opened by Brighton MP Caroline Lucas, is the first in the UK which can detect harmful nano-sized particles and their gaseous precursors.
Dr Wyche expects to publish its first year’s findings from the station in the next few weeks and there are plans for UK’s first outreach programme taking their work into primary and secondary schools. A website on the station’s work is scheduled to be launched next month.
At the station’s launch, Dr Wyche and Dr Smallbone, experts in atmospheric science, said: “Poor air quality is believed to result in around 50,000 deaths per year in the UK, according to Public Health England, and is thought to reduce people’s life expectancy by an average of nine months across the European Union. The World Health Authority reported that outdoor air pollution kills more people worldwide than road traffic accidents, smoking and diabetes combined.
“In light of such dramatic statistics and estimates, it is crucial that we enhance our understanding of the relationships that exist between pollutants and health, and the JAAQS will provide a solid platform for us to do just this; it will provide unparalleled insight into the kinds of pollutants we breathe, their complex interactions and how they evolve.
“It will give us the unique ability to provide policy makers, scientists and the general public with the vital information required to help improve the quality of our air and protect our health.”