Pollution in St Albans at 2.5x the legal limit

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:57 18 January 2018

Air quality expert and Green campaigner, Keith Cotton, standing outside Pop Rock Candy on Holywell Hill. Photo: St Albans Green Party.

Air quality expert and Green campaigner, Keith Cotton, standing outside Pop Rock Candy on Holywell Hill. Photo: St Albans Green Party.


Choking levels of air pollution in St Albans have now reached alarming new heights, campaigners have claimed.

Toxic fumes are more than two and a half times the legal limit, according to the St Albans Green Party.

The legal limit for nitrogen dioxide levels is 40ugm-3 from several tests over a period of time, and campaigners previously measured levels of 67 and 87 ugm-3, which refers to the number of micrograms per cubic metre of air.

However in their most recent test, campaigners found nitrogen dioxide levels on Holywell Hill and in Sumpter Yard were at 105ugm-3.

Air quality expert and Green campaigner Keith Cotton said: “The risks for people’s health are serious, especially for young children and many others who are particularly vulnerable.

Air quality expert and Green campaigner, Keith Cotton, standing outside Pop Rock Candy on Holywell Hill. Photo: St Albans Green Party.Air quality expert and Green campaigner, Keith Cotton, standing outside Pop Rock Candy on Holywell Hill. Photo: St Albans Green Party.

“The district and county councils have a duty to act, and act fast, to protect our health.

“Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to public health. We did this testing off our own bat to shine a light on the urgent need for action by St Albans district and Herts councils.

“Even inside a car, the pollution levels from atmospheric fumes can be dangerous. It’s in everyone’s interests that we take steps to keep heavily polluting vehicles out of our city, ease congestion, and make it more attractive for people to walk or cycle.

“Air pollution in the UK causes 40,000 premature deaths a year. In St Albans that equates to around 100 deaths, as a proportion of that overall figure based on St Albans’s population. This is a serious public health issue for our city.”

The results were retested by a laboratory and found to be correct.

The party also measured 56ugm-3 outside Alban City School on Hatfield Road, and 56ugm-3 outside Poundworld.

St Albans council’s head of community services Joe Tavernier said: “Improving air quality across the district is a council priority and we have undertaken a considerable amount of work on this.

“Most air pollution is caused by emissions from vehicles and our ability to reduce those is limited, so we work in partnership with a number of organisations, including Herts County Council, bus companies, local taxi drivers, and central government.

“As part of this commitment, we monitor nitrogen oxide levels at around 40 sites across the district.

“Our annual air status report compiled by an independent expert for 2016 did not indicate any concentrations above the EU and national annual average limit. That is a substantial improvement on 2008 when there were 11 sites above the limit.

“Measuring concentration is a complex and technical task that must follow government guidelines. For instance, for the assessment to be meaningful, measurements have to be taken regularly over 12 months rather than at one moment of time.

“We have not completed our air status report for 2017, but will do so shortly along with two reports on air quality issues. One is on how we can establish precisely where high levels of vehicle emissions could occur and the other is on how to manage heavy goods road traffic.

“Over the past few years, we have been working to an evolving action plan agreed by our councillors that includes a range of initiatives.

“We have promoted green travel, encouraged taxi drivers to go electric, and obtained grants to retrofit buses with clean-air technology. We also launched an anti-engine idling campaign last year which will intensify during 2018.

“At the moment, we are looking at obtaining funding for the creation of a Clean Air Zone in St Albans. This would allow us to issue fines to drivers guilty of engine idling.”

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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