Country air is more polluted than in cities

A A A

Camden and Haringey in London and the centres of Newcastle and Nottingham have some of the cleanest air in the country, a new government report concludes. It found that they suffer only a fraction of the number of days of severe pollution experienced by some places in the heart of the British countryside.

Camden and Haringey in London and the centres of Newcastle and Nottingham have some of the cleanest air in the country, a new government report concludes. It found that they suffer only a fraction of the number of days of severe pollution experienced by some places in the heart of the British countryside.

This startling finding - published in the first of a series of annual assessments on how ministers are meeting their environmental, economic and social targets - dramatically illustrates the Government's failure to control pollution by ozone within its clean-up strategy.

A troublesome constituent of smog, which aggravates asthma, ozone is formed by a complex series of chemical reactions caused by the effect of sunlight on other pollutants, largely emitted from vehicle exhausts.

This takes time to happen, and in the meantime the pollution drifts out from the cities to cover the countryside.

The report, Regional Quality of Life Counts, published by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, measures contamination by ozone and four other pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and particles made up of tiny specks of soot in smoke which kill about 24,000 Britons a year from respiratory and heart disease.

It adds up the number of days in which these pollutants exceeded health standards at each of the Government's monitoring sites. On average, Camden suffers only 13 days a year past the limit, while Haringey has 12, Newcastle 16 and Nottingham 18. By contrast, Lullington Heath on the Sussex Downs undergoes 65 a year on average - exactly five times as many as Camden. Somerton, near Yeovil, in the Somerset countryside, has 56 days.

The cleanest air measured was at a roadside in Sutton, virtually a London suburb, which on average experiences only three high pollution days a year. The dirtiest, unsurprisingly, was at industrial Port Talbot, with 75 days.

Other, relatively unpolluted city centres included Sheffield, Birmingham, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton and Southampton, all ranging from 20 to 23 days, while the comparatively rural Norwich has 53.

On average, the report concludes, the countryside sites suffered 44 days of health-threatening pollution a year, compared with just 27 in towns and cities.

Measures to clean up emissions from factories and vehicles - including fitting catalytic converters to exhausts - have greatly improved city air. The reports shows that the number of severely polluted days in urban areas has dropped by half since 1993.

Meanwhile, however, air pollution in the countryside has remained at much the same level so that, since 1997, it has been worse than in towns and cities.

The main source of the problem, the department and environmentalists agree, is ozone, an odourless blue-tinged gas, which has been particularly troublesome in sunny years such as 1999; during last year's wet summer, pollution levels were much lower. Once formed, it wanders freely over the countryside. Lullington Heath suffers particularly badly because it receives the pollution from continental Europe as well as from elsewhere in Britain.

Successive governments have failed to control it. The Conservatives promised to solve the ozone problem by 2005, but neither they nor Labour has made any real impact.

Environmentalists say that they have sought to tackle pollution by concentrating on hotspots in the cities and cleaning up emissions, rather than getting to grips with the ever-growing volume of vehicles on the roads.

"This report shows that Britain has got a problem with smog which is not going to go away," Roger Higman, senior air pollution campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said yesterday. "The only way of solving it is to cut the amount of traffic."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition