BREAKING: Legal limit on PM2.5 to be halved by 2040

The UK government has today announced new targets to be included in the Environment Act, including a legally binding target to reduce levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to 10 micrograms per cubic metre by 2040.

The new targets also include a 35% reduction in population exposure to PM2.5 by 2040, compared to levels in 2018.

The proposed targets will now be subject to an eight-week consultation period, where government will seek the views of environment groups, local authorities and stakeholders.

Exposure to PM2.5 can trigger heart attacks and strokes, increase the risk of asthma attacks resulting in hospitalization, cause lung cancer and stunt the lung growth of children.

The World Health Organization recommends that concentrations of PM2.5 not exceed an annual mean concentration of 5µg/m3.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: ‘These proposed targets are intended to set a clear, long-term plan for nature’s recovery. In a post EU era, we now have the freedom to move towards a system that focuses on nature’s recovery as well as its preservation, and which places more emphasis on science and less emphasis on legal process. This change in approach will help us in the pursuit of the targets we are setting under the Environment Act.’

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However, the targets have been criticised for not going far enough to tackle air pollution.

Non-profit legal organisation ClientEarth commented that the proposed air quality target would ‘fail another generation of children’.

Katie Nield, lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said: ‘The target date that the UK Government is proposing is far from ‘world-leading’. It means that another generation of children will be exposed to toxic pollution far above what the world’s top scientists think is acceptable. Ministers need to seriously reconsider their proposal.’

Recent research from Clean Air Fund and Imperial College London found that if the government implements planned environmental, transport and clean air policies, air pollution levels could fall within the recommended interim target from the World Health Organization of 10µg/m3 across most parts of the UK by 2030.

The research found that implementing existing government plans by 2030 would have significant positive impacts on public health and could lead to children across the UK suffering an average of 388,000 fewer days of asthma symptoms a year, as well as a significant fall in cases of coronary heart disease and a rise in average life expectancy of 9-10 weeks across those born in 2018.

In total, the health and economic benefits, including reduced pressure on the NHS and higher productivity, could be worth up to £380bn between 2018 and 2134.

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Ruurd Bosker
Ruurd Bosker
2 years ago

And what about the smaller particles? They are much more dangerous and we do not know the levels.

2 years ago

What is the present PM2.5 safety threshold and what exactly does it mean? Presumably it is a yearly average. But how high can the level go on a particular day or week before emergency action is taken by the government? An average of anything can include a wide range of extremes, Bringing the average down to 10 micrograms might be more realistic than the 5 micrograms recommended by the WHO but why has this decision been made? The worst part is having to wait almost 20 years before the new target level becomes law (government will have changed by then of course). By that time the children of today will have grown up and become parents themselves, so any damage to their health will have been done. This sentence is confusing: The new targets also include a 35% reduction in population exposure to PM2.5 by 2040, compared to levels in 2018″. What does that mean? Will families have to move house, or will new housing be built in less polluted areas? What about where we work and children go to school? And why compare to 2018 and not 2022? If the WHO wants to get the threshold down to 10 micrograms by 2030 as an interim measure why can’t UK go for this too? It makes me think our government knows something we don’t. Is our air worse than we think?

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