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Air Quality

Volume 713: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how each of the air quality alert bandings recommended by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants for each air pollutant equate to (a) equivalent maximum exposure levels currently recommended by the World Health Organisation, and (b) the relevant European Union limit values for ambient air quality. [HL5754]

The UK Air Pollution Index (API) is currently under review by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP). The outcome of the review is expected in June 2010.

The tables below show the following:

table 1 details the boundaries between index points for each pollutant (Ozone, NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), SO2 (sulphur dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide) and PM10 (particulate matter)) for the current COMEAP bandings system;

table 2 details the UK API health descriptors for people who are sensitive to air pollution;

table 3 details the maximum exposure levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO); and

table 4 details the EU limit values for air pollution.

Please note that the averaging times are different for the data in tables 1, 3, and 4 and are, therefore, not directly comparable.

Table 1: Boundaries between index points for each pollutant

Band

Index

Ozone

Nitrogen Dioxide

Sulphur dioxide

Carbon Monoxide

PM10 Particles

Running 8 hourly or hourly mean*

Hourly mean

15 minute mean

Running 8 hourly mean

Running 24 hour mean

micro- pm-3

ppb

micro- pm-3

ppb

micro- pm-3

ppb

mgm-3

ppm

micro- pm-3

(Grav. Equiv.)

micro- pm-3(Ref.Equiv.)

Low

1

0-33

0-16

0-95

0-49

0-88

0-32

0-3.8

0.0-3.2

0-21

0-19

2

34-65

17-32

96-190

50-99

89-176

33-66

3.9-7.6

3.3-6.6

22-42

20-40

3

66-99

33-49

191-286

100-149

177-265

67-99

7.7-11.5

6.7-9.9

43-64

41-62

Moderate

4

100-125

50-62

287-381

150-199

266-354

100-132

11.6-13.4

10.0-11.5

65-74

63-72

5

126-153

63-76

382-477

200-249

355-442

133-166

13.5-15.4

11.6-13.2

75-86

73-84

6

154-179

77-89

478-572

250-299

443-531

167-199

15.5-17.3

13.3-14.9

87-96

85-94

High

7

180-239

90-119

573-635

300-332

532-708

200-266

17.4-19.2

15.0-16.5

97-107

95-105

8

240-299

120-149

636-700

333-366

709-886

267-332

19.3-21.2

16.6-18.2

108-118

106-116

9

300-359

150-179

701-763

367-399

887-1063

333-399

21.3-23.1

18.3-19.9

119-129

117-127

Very High

10

360 or more

180 or more

764 or more

400 or more

1064 or more

400 or more

23.2 or more

20 or more

130 or more

128 or more

* For ozone, the maximum of the eight-hourly and hourly mean is used to calculate the index value.

Table 2: The UK Air Pollution Index health descriptors for people who are sensitive to air pollution

Banding

Index

Health Descriptor

Low

1, 2, or 3

Effects are unlikely to be noticed even by individuals who know they are sensitive to air pollutants

Moderate

4, 5, or 6

Mild effects, unlikely to require action, may be noticed among sensitive individuals.

High

7, 8, or 9

Significant effects may be noticed by sensitive individuals and action to avoid or reduce these effects may be needed (eg, reducing exposure by spending less time in polluted areas outdoors). Asthmatics will find that their “reliever” inhaler is likely to reverse the effects on the lung.

Very High

10

The effects on sensitive individuals described for “High” levels of pollution may worsen.

Table 3: The maximum exposure levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO)

Ozone

Nitrogen Dioxide

Sulphur Dioxide

Carbon Monoxide

PM10 Particles

Running 8-hourly or hourly mean

hourly mean

15-minute mean

Running 8-hourly mean

Running 24-hour mean

120 micro-pm-3

200 micro-pm-3

No data available for this averaging time. WHO recommends a guideline of 500micro-pm-3 for an averaging time of 10 minutes.

10mgm-3

The available information for short and long-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 does not allow a judgment to be made regarding concentrations below which no effects would be expected.

Table 4 EU limit values: Source of data http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm

Pollutant

Concentration

Averaging period

Legal nature

Permitted exceedences each year

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

350 microgrammes/m3

1 hour

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2005

24

125 microgrammes/m3

24 hours

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2005

3

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

200 microgrammes/m3

1 hour

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2010

18

40 microgrammes/m3

1 year

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2010*

n/a

PM10

50 microgrammes/3

24 hours

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2005**

35

40 microgrammes/m3

1 year

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2005**

n/a

Carbon monoxide (CO)

10mg/m3

Maximum daily 8-hour mean

Limit value enters into force 1.1.2005

n/a

Ozone

120microgrammes/m3

Maximum daily 8-hour mean

Target value enters into force 1.1.2010

25 days averaged over 3 years

*Under the new directive the member state can apply for an extension of up to five years (ie, maximum up to 2015) in a specific zone. Request is subject to assessment by the Commission. In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance (48pg/m3 for annual NO2 limit value).

**Under the new directive the member state can apply for an extension until three years after the date of entry into force of the new directive (ie, May 2011) in a specific zone. Request is subject to assessment by the Commission. In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance (35 days at 75 microgrammes/m3 for daily PM10 limit value, 48 microgrammes/m3 for annual PM10 limit value).

Under EU law a limit value is legally binding from the date it enters into force subject to any exceedances permitted by the legislation. A target value is to be attained as far as possible by the attainment date and so is less strict than a limit value.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what short-term action plans to improve air quality have been produced and implemented in Greater London. [HL5777]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to ensure in Greater London that European Union limit values for air quality once attained are not then exceeded. [HL5778]

The Greater London Authority (GLA) provides for the mayor to prepare an air quality strategy for Greater London. This is in accordance with the Section 80 of the Environment Act 1995 national air quality strategy, prepared and published by the Secretary of State. The Greater London strategy covers the implementation of the policies contained in the national strategy, and for the achievement of the air quality standards and objectives prescribed in regulations made under Section 87(2)(a) and (b) of the Environmental Act. No short-term action plans have been produced or implemented in Greater London.

The GLA is responsible for the implementation of measures for the achievement of air quality standards within Greater London. The Government would expect this to include consideration of any necessary steps to ensure air quality standards are not exceeded following attainment.