Keynsham Voice, May Column: Air pollution

car

In case you missed the Keynsham Voice this month you can read our column here:

Last year it emerged that Volkswagen rigged emissions tests for 11m cars, making the company responsible for nearly 1m tonnes of air pollution every year. That’s equivalent to the UK’s combined emissions for all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.

But it doesn’t end there. Over recent months it’s been revealed that Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi’s cars also emit significantly more NOx pollution on the road than in regulatory tests. Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Guardian newspaper, 97% of all modern diesel cars emit more toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on the road than the official limit.

Late last month, a group of cross-party MPs said that air pollution in the UK is now a “public health emergency”. They pointed out the government’s failure to act on getting old, dirty diesel vehicles off the road. 

A report in February this year suggested that air pollution is linked to around 40,000 deaths per year. It can damage babies in the womb, giving them lifelong ill health, and it plays a role in many chronic conditions such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, and neurological changes linked to dementia.

These statistics are worrying, given the huge house building activity going on in Keynsham. As our town’s population grows and brings more cars into the area, how are we going to cut pollution levels?

New housing developments must be pedestrian and cycle friendly, and well-connected to public transport. Shops, schools and surgeries should be within walking distance.

Rather than encouraging car use, let’s see estates where parking areas are away from residential streets, and car clubs are encouraged. It’s being done elsewhere – the Netherlands are a world leader in sustainable housing developments.

I wish our house builders and our Council showed that kind of commitment to a cleaner, healthier environment. After all, everyone deserves to breathe clean air, don’t we?

Published in Keynsham Voice, May 2016, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk

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