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Air Pollution Cause For Concern?

Poor air quality in Kirkdale has become infamous over the centuries, the industrial role the ward has played fulling the local economy has also polluted the environment with scrap yards, chemical plants and large factories.

The alarming council ward statistics show four times of respiratory fatalities in Kirkdale each year compared to the rest of the UK - presenting a clear irregularity that can be correlated to poor air quality, high smoking rates, poverty and lifestyle choices.

Director of Public Health in Liverpool, Dr Sandra, says, “Whilst Kirkdale ward had the 2nd highest chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mortality  (significantly higher than Liverpool average).  According to the Global Burden of Disease risk factor estimates, the major attributable risk factor for COPD deaths in Liverpool in 2017 was smoking. This was followed by air pollution and occupational risks. The risk factor estimates were however not broken down by wards which made it impossible to further explore and compare air pollution attributable risks to COPD deaths across wards.”

Dr Sandra also points out smoking prevalence in Kirkdale was 23.9%, it was one of the 14 Liverpool wards with smoking prevalence significantly, that could factor into the high respiratory death toll.

“Liverpool City Council is committed to ensuring that businesses, who hold a permit issued by the authority, comply with national and EU legislation for pollution. “, Sandra adds.

The way pollution is monitored changes depending on what type, particle pollution (PM) – linked to heavy industry and Nitrogen Dioxide (No2) – the main pollutant from motor vehicles. The data maps on Liverpool pollution levels in Liverpool Public Health Report 2017/2018, labelled PM10 and No2 higher in the ward of Kirkdale in comparison with the rest of the city.

Dr Sandra states, “the data from the monitoring shows that the levels of PM10 in Liverpool are below the statutory limit. Therefore, our current focus is on monitoring nitrogen dioxide.”

Although the only current PM monitoring system sits all the way out in Speke,  raising the question of how accurately PM pollution data is for industrialised Kirkdale?

"We need to see a mass transition away from private motor cars with petrol and diesel engines and towards walking and cycling and get better cleaner public transport and overall lower levels of traffic on the road."

Cllr Tom Crone, Leader of Liverpool’s Green Party says the current site is “poorly sited and is inadequate for a city of Liverpool’s size”

He states the ‘diffusion tubes’ installed around the city to detect NO2 are” fairly rudimentary low tech way of detecting just nitrous oxide levels, it doesn’t tell you anything about pollution fluctuations, it doesn’t tell about PM particular matter – it only tells you N02″

Cllr Crone, criticises even with the ‘passive’ system used to detect pollution in Liverpool, the city is still over the EU recommended limit for N02,  “What you would want to see of the back of that is some action and that’s what I’m not happy about – not enough is being done to address the situation.”

He says Liverpool transport and air quality proposals aren’t  sustainable and believes the council are encouraging  environmentally damaging transport systems, “We need to see a mass transition away from private motor cars with petrol and diesel engines and towards walking and cycling and get better cleaner public transport and overall lower levels of traffic on the road.”

Cllr Crone believes “trees and green space can act as a sink for pollutants” but adds,  “unfortunately, we keep hearing sites being earmarked for development on green spaces.”

Back in August 2011, Scottie Press ran a story on health concerns of Macbeth St residents in Kirkdale after a test revealing ‘orange dust’ collected from inside resident’s homes contained: Mercury, Copper, Lead, Cadmium, Zinc and Arsenic.  The collection of ‘heavy metals’ is thought to come from the local industry, the article revealed ‘breathing issues, high cancer rates, disruptive noise and mental health problems’ concerned and directly affected the residents. It stated, in 2009 the council paid £1,500 in compensation to combat the smell with disinfectant, air-freshener and window replacements – though many of the problems still remain.

Scottie Press revisited the Macbeth St and now also neighbouring Celia St residents group led by Torus housing officer, Dot Powell. One resident says, ‘no one can breath’ and raises worries over the unusually high rates of cancer in the neighbourhood, “every other house someone has died”. They even revealed the pollution leading to mental health issues in some community members and lately, the strong smell of ‘burning’ in the air has become common. Since 2011 to date, the group say no action has been taken to lessen the problems. As stated in Scottie Press’s in 2011 – ‘Surely certain actions should be taken to evaporate elements of stress and help residents’.

Research on metal pollution is associated with a wide range of environmental and health effects including respiratory and pulmonary disorders, neurotoxicity, and cancer. High concentrations of metals in the environment, especially near industrial facilities, are thus a

cause for concern. It’s reported main threats to human health from heavy metals are associated with exposure to lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.

Although the causes of pollution may sometimes be out of our hands, alleviating its effects on the local environment and peoples health isn’t.

Senior Clinical Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at LSTM, Dr Jamie Ryance says methods such as ‘filtering air in confined spaces of concentrated production of dust, minimising production and personal protective equipment for people most exposed’, are effective ways in combating problems associated with pollution.

Another key factor in combatting pollution he says is by  “Empowering local populations to understand both the level and type of exposure which they face, so that they can advocate for cleaner air”

He states it’s important to understand “it is often the combination of pollutants which give rise to ill-health and that we all have a responsibility to minimise outputs “

“There are direct effects of local air quality on ill health, and the wider issues of the quality of the living environment. Health and wellbeing are affected by the lack of green spaces as well as by the presence of industrial pollution,” he adds.

Clare Olver from Mersey Forests says, “In areas of poor air quality, trees and other types of “green infrastructure” are vital at dispersing particulates. Our work is following the latest research in that we need to be planting trees and hedgerows closest to our youngest and most vulnerable populations  – eg. our work in school grounds, around nurseries and hospital grounds.”

Clare says, “One of the reasons that I work at the Mersey Forest is because I believe that trees provide many more benefits than many people understand, and we try to communicate those benefits to those we believe who can help us make a difference on the ground.  The benefits to the communities in North Liverpool range from keeping us cool in summer (hard to believe today!),  reducing flooding, increasing the value of properties, improving our health and wellbeing, – and this is just a start. Not least mitigating climate change, and improving our local biodiversity.”