As the global population continues its rapid increase (or spirals out of control, depending on your point of view), pollution and air quality are positioning themselves front and centre when it comes to climate change debates - right up there with single use plastics.
We’ve all seen images of dense smog hanging over cities like Shanghai and Delhi, with people carrying out their daily activities behind a face mask. However, we don’t have to go to the Far East to encounter poor air pollution and pretty much every western city has its air quality issues – with London no exception.
In fact, with smoking on the decline, air pollution now causes more fatalities annually than tobacco, causing at least eight million premature deaths a year.
According to a 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, air pollution in 2012 caused the premature deaths of around eight million people worldwide. And approximately 90% of the population living in cities in 2014 was exposed to particulate matter in concentrations exceeding the WHO air quality guidelines.
Today, many people around the UK will be making plans to attend a fireworks display, burn a guy and toast some marshmallows around the bonfire to mark 5th November. However, The Evening Standard has recently reported the findings of a study from Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory on the levels of air pollution caused by this annual event.
Levels of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere can be four times the daytime level, the study has shown, and eight times higher than WHO guidelines. Figures recorded in 2018 showed that between the hours of 8.00pm and midnight, particulate matter (PM2.5) levels were the highest in the region for the whole of the year. It should be noted however, that pollution levels may vary from year to year depending on weather conditions.
Professor Phil James, from Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, said: “The air pollution data we collected over 24 hours last Bonfire Night paints a really striking picture of the impact the fireworks and bonfires are having on air quality.”