Power pollution is linked to asthma

POWER stations may be a major source of air pollution, according to a study due to be unveiled today.

A group of independent government advisers - members of the Atmospheric Particles Expert Group (APEG) - have found that particles that cause asthma and other chest complaints, known as PM10s, are generated by heavy industrial plant - including power stations fuelled by coal and oil.

It is thought the results could have major implications for the current review of the Government's National Air Quality Strategy.

Government policy is geared towards cracking down on filthy exhaust fumes, particularly from smoky diesel engines which are a major cause of the particles.

But it now looks as though heavy industrial plant - including power stations fuelled by coal and oil - may be a key factor in rising levels of asthma and other chest complaints.

Professor Anthony Seaton, of the University of Aberdeen, will produce the new evidence to health experts at a meeting of the National Society for Clean Air in London.

Over the past five years, particle pollution has risen from relative obscurity to being the United Kingdom's most serious and intractable air quality problem.

It is estimated that dirty air results in 8,000 premature deaths and 10,000 early hospital admissions annually.

The National Air Quality Strategy aims to reduce this type of pollution nation-wide by 2005.

But a confidential paper produced for the European Commission suggests that the methods used for monitoring particles in the UK may significantly under-estimate the scale of the problem of fine particles, known as PM10s.

A spokesman for the NSCA said: "The particles are so tiny they can penetrate the lung and that is when the damage is done. This is a problem particularly for people with cardiovascular problems."

Gavin Strang, the transport minister, this week announced pilot areas for a national network of vehicle testing centres. They are Westminster, Bristol, Birmingham, Canterbury, Middlesbrough, Swansea, Glasgow and Belfast.

The free tests are intended to complement trial powers granted to those local authorities to fine motorists with dirty exhausts as part of the Government's "greener vehicles" campaign.

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