Amid ongoing pleas for tougher action to improve air quality, Bureau Veritas has stated government plans to tackle pollution from farming is a ‘step forward’ in cutting ammonia gas and harmful particulates.
Published last month by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Clean Air Strategy 2019 is the UK’s flagship policy for addressing poor air quality, which is the leading environmental risk to human health in the UK responsible for up to 36,000 deaths each year1.
For the first time, the strategy includes a greater focus on reducing particulate matter such as PM2.5 – a pollutant linked to lung and heart damage2 – and sets out ambitious plans to reduce ammonia emissions from farming, which accounts for a high proportion of PM2.5 concentrations in the UK. Overall, the government has also committed to halving the number of people living in locations with high PM2.5 concentrations by 2025.
Jamie Clayton, Principal Air Quality Consultant at Bureau Veritas, explains: “Poor air quality is currently one of the greatest threats to public health. And the farming sector accounts for 88% of the ammonia emissions in the UK3, often released during the storage and spreading of manures and slurries, and from the application of inorganic fertilisers.
“Historically, most air quality improvement measures have never targeted agriculture or indeed rural areas. However, the government’s pledge to cut PM2.5 concentrations, of which ammonia emissions are a significant contributor, is a welcome step forward in tackling the level of harmful particulates in the air. The move will require policymakers to work closely with the farming community to limit damaging levels of PM2.5 through the effective reduction of ammonia emissions in agricultural processes.”
The comments come amid mounting criticism that the Clean Air Strategy does not go far enough in tackling road traffic emissions4, which still accounts for the bulk of Britain’s air pollution.
Jamie said: “Reducing PM2.5 concentrations to WHO guideline levels certainly requires a new way of thinking about air quality improvement measures, and the strategy has hinted at potential new legislation to target particulate emissions from tyres and brakes from road transport, which would previously have been seen as not worth considering compared to tailpipe emissions.”
The leading testing, inspection and certification firm added that changing consumer behaviour will start to play a greater a role in improving air quality, particularly in addressing exposure to toxins in the home.
Jamie adds: “Another area gaining traction is how to reduce exposure to toxins at home. In addition to the much publicised particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions from burning wood and coal, there are increasing concerns over non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), a harmful chemical found in carpets, upholstery, paint, cleaning products, personal care products and even scented candles.
“The government is now calling for better labelling of products containing NMVOCs to raise public awareness the need to increase ventilation when using such products to prevent the harmful build-up of emissions. Changing consumer behaviour in this way is a central tenet of the Clean Air Strategy and promoting personal responsibility for ’doing our bit’ will only help to ensure the air we breathe is clean and safe for generations to come.”
Bureau Veritas offers a team of air quality experts committed to providing best practice consultancy support for customers around how to assess and manage air pollutant emissions to ensure compliance, whilst maintaining economic feasibility. For further information, call 0345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk