Workers exposed to unsafe NO2 in 18 UK areas — GMB union

Trade union also says actions of Volkswagen in manipulating diesel emissions tests are ‘unforgiveable’

Trade union GMB has reiterated its calls for more local air quality monitoring and city-centre vehicle bans in order to protect frontline workers exposed to ‘unsafe’ levels of nitrogen dioxide in the UK.

Street cleaners and other workers in the UK are being exposed to high NO2, GMB says

Street cleaners and other workers in the UK are being exposed to high NO2, GMB says

The union yesterday (September 28) published its own analysis of the government’s 2015 air quality data, showing that EU limits for NO2 are being exceeded at 18 out of 110 monitoring stations across the UK.

This is lower than the 19 areas found to be in exceedance the previous year, but GMB says the health of its members — such as street cleaners, refuse workers, utility workers, police community support officers and parking staff — is still at risk from unsafe NO2 levels.

And, it says the UK’s NO2 problems are also being exacerbated by the “deceit” of Volkswagen.

The German carmaker recently admitted as many as 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide are involved in the scandal over the deliberate manipulation of emissions testing to show lower emissions levels than on the road (see story).

According to the UK’s third-largest trade union, Volkswagen’s actions are “unforgivable” and it should be “severely punished for an immoral, devious and deceitful approach to public health risks and mis-selling”.

John McClean, GMB’s national health, safety and environment officer, said that the union had already received enquiries from company car drivers “worried that emissions scales on which their VW cars are taxed could be reviewed by HMRC landing them with additional taxes”.

Mr McClean said: “Even though engine technology is improving, these exposure levels are still dangerously high, and place workers and the public at increased risk of respiratory diseases.

“We reiterate our call for high polluting vehicles to be banned from city centres, and for local authorities to take immediate action in priority areas such as near schools, hospitals and GP surgeries. Waiting for technology to reduce emissions is not an acceptable response. GMB calls for action now.”

He also called for better air quality monitoring in urban areas, cleaner and affordable public transport, better cycling infrastructure and more air quality information in schools and doctors’ surgeries

Mr McClean added: “Contractors and councils should consider installing monitoring equipment on wagons and barrows. They should look at designing street cleaning and refuse collection routes to avoid the times in the areas with the highest levels of pollutants.”

UK areas breaching NO2 limits

The European Union sets nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits at an average of 40ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) in a year, and the government is currently consulting on its draft air quality plan aimed at meeting these limits in all UK areas as soon as possible so as to avoid potential fines (see story).

The 18 stations in Defra’s Automatic Urban Monitoring Network which have exceeded these EU annual NO2 limits this year are:

  • Aberdeen Union Street Roadside (45 ugm3)
  • Bath Roadside (52)
  • Belfast Stockman’s Lane (49)
  • Bimingham Tyburn Roadside (43)
  • Bradford Mayo Avenue (40)
  • Camden Kerbside (60)
  • Glasgow Kerbside (57)
  • Hafod-yr-ynys Roadside (69)
  • Haringey Roadside (40)
  • London Bloomsbury (48)
  • London Hillingdon (50)
  • London Marylebone Road (84)
  • Luton A505 Roadside (42)
  • Oldbury Birmingham Road (41)
  • Oxford Centre Roadside (47)
  • Southwark A2 Old Kent Road (43)
  • Stoke-on-Trent A50 Roadside (56)
  • Tower Hamlets Roadside (54)


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