Letter: Fumes data

AS YOUR correspondent, Geoffrey Lean, will know, my department is committed in the Government's 1992 White Paper to publish consultation proposals on the development of air quality monitoring and on new arrangements for meeting air quality standards. Thus, we welcome your interest in urban air quality ('Whitehall rigs car fumes data' and Inside Story, 10 October), but it was regrettable that the article misled on the degree to which pollution data is publicly available and the extent of the UK air quality monitoring system. To suggest that the data is rigged is not justified.

First, any suggestion that data is concealed is quite wrong, when the DoE make it available on a free telephone line (0800 556677), Ceefax and Teletext. Further, figures on ozone said to be revealed by investigation were publicly available in reports published at the request of this department.

Second, we spend pounds 4m per annum on air quality monitoring. The stations are the most sophisticated in Europe, measuring six major pollutants and over 20 hydrocarbon compounds. Nitrogen dioxide monitoring for the EC directive takes place at sites where sampling has shown air quality is representative of the highest levels of pollution to which people are likely to be exposed for a significant length of time. The original locations were based on a 363-site sampling programme. To take into account changing air quality, the study was repeated and published in 1991. A further 1,000-site sampling programme with local authorities is now under way.

D J Fisk, Chief Scientist, DoE

London SW1