Local authorities must introduce new techniques and measures if we are to improve air quality across the UK says Sean Farrell of Living Walls company Mobilane.
It is estimated that poor air quality reduces the life expectancy of everyone in the UK by an average of seven to eight months. Every year an estimated 50,000 deaths across the country are attributed to long term exposure to poor air quality. Particulate matter (PM) is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular illness and mortality as well as other ill-health effects. PM is generally categorised on the basis of the size of the particles: PM10, for example, refers to particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres. The largest sources of PM10 in the UK are stationary fuel combustion and road transport.
Targets to reduce PM10 were introduced into European legislation in 1999 but for the past seven years we have consistently missed hitting this target. Greater London regularly exceeds World Health Organisation guidelines and has never managed to comply with the EU legislation to reduce harmful particulates. A review of the Air Quality Plan for London saw the Mayor of London’s office suggest some interesting new measures including the introduction of low emission zones, age limits on public vehicles such as taxis and buses and green vehicle discounts for congestion charging. Surprisingly, none of these suggestions made it into the submission to the EU and while there may be cost benefit arguments behind omitting these ideas it feels like we are caught up prevaricating rather than getting on with the job of solving the issue.
Researchers from the Royal London hospital have also linked exposure to traffic pollution to stunting the growth of children’s lungs, cutting their breathing power by up to 17%. It is the latest study in a growing body of evidence suggesting that particulates are becoming a health hazard on a par with the smogs that killed thousands of people in London in the 1950s. The Kings College of London’s Exhale programme which identifies links between traffic pollution and childhood asthma revealed that in the inner city each cubic centimetre of air on a main road has around 150,000 particulates in it which means people walking or cycling inhale 60m with each breath.
A living wall delivers a range of benefits beyond the obvious and stunning aesthetic. It lives and breathes and in doing so the foliage removes carbon dioxide from the air and it exhales oxygen via photosynthesis. The foliage also improves air quality by removing particulates and unlike trees, foliage on walls does not impact drastically on footprint or restrict air flow and so helps to reduce ambient temperature. Across the country, forward thinking local authorities are beginning to introduce green screens and living walls as a serious attempt to mitigate and combat localised air pollution problems. They are non-intrusive, quick to install and improve the quality of our inner city environments as well as the health of our nation.
For further information see www.mobilane.co.uk Contact telephone number: 07711 895261