'As many as 1,700' deaths in Northamptonshire could be down to air pollution in the next decade, charity warns

The British Heart Foundation is warning that as many as 1,700 people could die of heart and circulatory disease in Northamptonshire in the next decade because of air pollution.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 6:00 am
A report in 2017 said one-in-20 deaths in Northampton were linked to air pollution.

The charity says air pollution has become a "major public health emergency" and is calling on the UK's new government to tackle the problem.

It comes after a damning report in 2017 linked "one-in-20" deaths in Northampton to air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Part of the BHF's campaign is to bring the World Health Organisation's (WHO) restrictions on air pollution by what are known as 'particulates' to be brought into UK law.

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Particulates are microscopic byproducts produced by burning fossil fuels that can be harmful to the human body and exacerbate existing health problems and increase the chance of heart attacks, strokes and lung and circulation diseases.

They include nitrogen dioxide, a poisonous byproduct produced by diesel engines that is harmful in high concentrations.

Now, BHF say they have analysed mortality rates in the UK to determine that 1,700 deaths in Northamptonshire will be caused by air pollution in the next decade.

Both the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guidelines and the European Union's standards say a road should not produce more than 40ug/m3 (micrograms per metre square) of the poisonous air pollutant nitrogen oxide.

But, according to data on Northampton Borough Council's website, several roads in the town regularly broke this limit throughout 2019. The most persistent roads to break the cap were Harlestone Road, St Michael's Road, Harborough Road, Bradshaw Street, Sheep Street, the Drapery and Harborough Road.

And, in 2019, clean air charity Friends of the Earth ranked Northampton's Harlestone Road as one of the five most polluted roads in the East Midlands, and recorded it pumping out an annual average of 54.5ug/m3 of NO2 - well over the EU statutory cap of 40ug/m3.

The 2017 figures that 1-in-20 deaths in Northampton were caused by air pollution played a major part in prompting the Borough Council to create its 'Low Emission Strategy' and work towards an Air Quality Action Plan, which includes creating more electric charging points for cars and ordering all of the town's taxi companies to phase out diesel cars through emissions standards.Meanwhile, the borough council is currently working to to create an 'Air Quality Management Area' for the entire town centre and published a list of 10 'areas of concern' in the town for pollution. Harlestone Road was on this list.