Air pollution from traffic monitored along Queens Road (from Edmund Road junction), to Chesterfield Road (Meersbrook Park Road junction), is at illegal levels: 30% above the European limit since monitoring started in 2006.
Well, ‘so what?’ you might say. But poor air quality is a public health crisis. A recent House of Commons Select committee report said, “Poor air quality probably causes more mortality and morbidity (chronic ill health), than passive smoking, road traffic accidents or obesity yet it receives little or no attention in the media and scant attention in parliament and within government”. In Sheffield, it contributes to the premature deaths of 500 people.
Many people with chronic lung and cardio-vascular health problems have their conditions made worse and their lives made a misery by the levels of pollution found in our neighbourhoods. The social cost to the city is around £160 million according to the government.
The City Council’s real-time monitoring station at Lowfield School shows that fine particles (the most damaging to health), exceeded the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit on over 1300 occasions between October 2011 to the end of March 2012 – and that’s with 24 days’ worth of data missing due to ‘technical issues’. These fine particles get into your body through your lungs.
What can we do about it? We can try to use our cars less, particularly for short journeys, use public transport more, or walk and cycle. When the City Council brings out its Air Quality Action Plan later this year, we should challenge those who try to portray it as anti-car and anti-business. Inevitably that will happen.
Air pollution is an issue for the people of Heeley and Meersbrook. It’s a hidden public health crisis and tackling it will lead to better health and a stronger economy. See www.sheffieldeastend.org.uk and www.healthyair.org.uk. Neil Parry