This report analyses and
compares two sites within the United Kingdom to see if the air quality
standards for Particulate Matter (PM10), Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone are met or
exceeded to know whether the air quality is safe, as well as to understand why
exceedances may have occurred in the rural and urban areas, Wicken Fen and
Marylebone Road respectively, furthermore this report discusses and outlines what
could be done to achieve the reduction in exceeded levels of pollutants in potential
urban sites, such as creating a multilane road with adequate traffic systems
and a toll gate to reduce the emissions of PM10 and NO2 pollutants.
Pollution and airborne
emissions are a global issue with every single person potentially being in
danger if exposed to high levels of pollutants for a period of time. Due to
that fact it is important for nations, counties and communities to record the
levels of pollutants in various locations to understand the safe levels of
exposure as well as levels that would be harmful towards the habitants of the
area and the environment.
The department for
environment, food and rural affairs in the UK has monitoring stations located
throughout the country testing the levels of various pollutants in the air and
their findings are quantified in spreadsheets that detail the emissions for
every hour for each year so a comparison could be done to see if the levels of
pollutants are changing through different seasons.
The pollutants that have been allocated
for the report are PM10 (Particulate matter roughly equal to 10 microns (Apps.sepa.org.uk,
n.d.)), NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) and O3 (Ozone).
PM10 is a harmful pollutant as
it is small enough to ignore the gravitational pull and is picked up and
transported by the winds, once its airborne inhalation most commonly leads to
damages to the lungs such as Bronchitis and asthma, however more alarmingly the
pollutant could cause strokes and even death (Marlborough.govt.nz, n.d.).
NO2 is a harmful pollutant as
it negatively affects the body once inhaled, the pollutant causes damage to the
lungs and their lining, increasing the chances of bronchitis as well as other
lung diseases, and furthermore NO2 contributes to the creation of photochemical
smog (Department of the Environment and Energy, 2005).
O3 is a harmful pollutant that
affects the way the alveoli within our lungs work and can therefore cause short
term or long term damage, in the event of a large exposure the lungs could
become permanently damaged (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2017).
According to table 1, in both
2009 and 20016 the national air quality objectives for PM10, NO2 and O3, hourly
and yearly means, were respectfully; 40 ugm^-3 and 50 ugm^-3 for PM10, 40 ugm^-3
and 200 ugm^-3 for NO2, 100 ugm^-3 for O3.
The number of times in 2009 at
Marylebone Road; that the level of PM10 had exceeded 40 ugm^-3 is 1333, whilst
the recommended maximum number of exceedances is 25. The number of exceedances
of 50 ugm^-3 for NO2 is 8140 whilst the recommended maximum number of
exceedances is 18. For O3 the 100 ugm^-3 level was not exceeded once.
The number of times in 2016 at
Marylebone Road; that the level of PM10 had exceeded 40 ugm^-3 is 1120, whilst
the recommended maximum number of exceedances is 25. The number of exceedances
of 50 ugm^-3 for NO2 is 7015 whilst the recommended maximum number of exceedances
is 18. For O3 the 100 ugm^-3 level was not exceeded once.
As seen in the figures 3 and 9,
there were more higher monthly average levels of PM10 recorded was in 2009
compared to 2016, in fact the highest monthly average of 28.53 ugm^-3 recorded
in march 2016 was surpassed 8 times in throughout 2009, likewise according to
figures 4 and 10, the diurnal average levels of PM10 pollutants recorded are
significantly lower in 2016 than in 2009. Following the data collected it is
evident that the levels of PM10 pollutants in Marylebone Road had improved and
decreased since 2009 as of 2016.
Table 2: Number of exceedances of the
recommended maximum level of PM10, NO2 and O3 in Marylebone Road and Wicken Fin
in 2009 and 2016.
Number of exceedances of
the recommended maximum level of pollutant
As seen in table 2, the
overall number of exceedances of the recommended maximum levels of both PM10
and NO2 had dropped (by 213 for PM10 and 1125 for NO2) in Marylebone Road while
for O3 the number of exceedances stayed a constant zero from 2009 to 2016. The
same trend is evident in Wicken fen as the number of exceedances for NO2 fell
by 209 and for O3 by 113, no data was recorded for PM10.
The general trend seen is a
fall in levels of each pollutant recorded as observed in table 2, as well as
with diurnal average values falling between the years as shown in figures 4 and
10 for PM10, figures 6 and 12 for NO2, figures 8 and 14 for O3 for Marylebone
Road likewise with figures 16 and 20 for NO2, figures 18 and 22 for O3 for
Wicken Fen. The trend continues when looking at the Monthly averages of
pollutants, the values improved and decreased slightly for all pollutants as
shown by figures; 3 and 10 for PM10, figures 5 and 11 for NO2, figures 7 and 13
for O3 for Marylebone Road, similarly seen in figures 15 and 19 for NO2,
figures 17 and 21 for O3.
When comparing a rural site to
an urban site, the levels of different pollutants are different due to varying
emitters, for example there are more vehicles in urban areas emitting
particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and more, therefore the levels
of said particulates would be higher (Buchdahl, n.d.).
PM10 pollutants are mainly
released from vehicles, fireplaces and construction, whilst also occurring in
wildfires and industrial sources (Arb.ca.gov, 2009). NO2 pollutants can be
emitted due to anthropogenic processes or natural ones, vehicles and coal/gas
power plants are the largest emitters of NO2 (Sos.noaa.gov, n.d.). The main
causes for high levels of O3 are traffic, factories that emit NO2 and VOC’s,
and “ozone generators” such as printers and air purifiers (PURE Solutions,
Due to the fact that no data
is available for PM10 levels in Wicken Fen, comparing the two sites for PM10 is
not possible, for NO2 however according to figures 5 and 15, the monthly
average levels of NO2 were higher in the urban Marylebone Road, similarly with
figures 6 and 16 the diurnal levels of NO2 show the same for 2009. Likewise for
2016 the levels of NO2 were higher in the monthly averages and diurnal average
levels for Marylebone Road as indicated by figures; 11, 19 and 12, 20
respectfully. A comparison for O3 levels is possible too, however the opposite
trend is seen from the NO2 trend, and in 2009 the levels of O3 were higher for
both monthly and diurnal average levels in the rural Wicken Fen as shown by
figures; 7, 17 and 8, 18 respectfully. Comparably the same was observed in the
2016, monthly and diurnal average levels of O3 were higher in Wicken Fen as
shown in figures; 13, 21 and 14, 22 respectfully, this could be due to the fact
that NO breaks down O3 and NO is one of the main pollutants released from
combustion therefore with the increased traffic, the levels of NO rise while
levels of O3 fall.
As discussed above and shown
in table 2, the recommended maximum number of exceedances of the recommended levels
of NO2 had been exceeded for both sites for both 2009 and 2016, while the PM10
levels were exceeded for Marylebone Road in both years, and the O3 was only
exceeded in Wicken Fen for both years, this signifies that the sites may be
hazardous, whilst the number of exceedances are small compared to the total
sample of pollutant levels, the risk persists.
If a commuter is stuck in
traffic at Marylebone Road every day during their trip to work they face a
larger risk of inhalation of the Pollutants present which could lead to detrimental
health effects with potential short term and long term lung damage. Wicken Fen
on the other hand has fewer exceedances of the recommended maximum number of
exceedances of pollutant levels, signifying that the air quality at the site is
better than for Marylebone Road and does not pose as serious a threat for the
health and safety of the residents.
A competent government would
be liable to reduce the levels of pollution where necessary, Marylebone Road is
such a place as the pollution isn’t entrapped by the site, the pollutants could
be transported by the wind, potentially spreading and harming the surrounding
area and its inhabitants. Methods of reducing the levels of pollutants could
include the implementation of technological advances, laws and regulations
could be passed with fines for breaking them, amongst others.
Firstly clear, measurable and
attainable target should be set for the pollutants deemed problematic such as
PM10 and NO2 pollutants at Marylebone Road for example, following the setting
of attainable targets, the assessment of outcomes should be done for each way
to reduce the levels of pollutants.
The government could ban all
new private petrol and diesel vehicles from the roads starting in a specific
year, however the proposal would not decrease the levels of pollution immediately,
and such a method would not be achievable unless sufficient technological advancements
in transportation are made as petrol and diesel cars would be the only way to
commute privately, however the electric car market is growing so the
availability of cheap reliable all electric vehicles is a passivity in the near
future (BBC News, 2017).
Another method could be to
increase the taxes for those that emit the most, for example an increase in
petrol prices, however that could be an issue as this could cause the prices of
common goods to increase seeing as they are transported using petrol or diesel vehicles,
so an automatic toll gate system could be implemented for Marylebone Road to
decrease the number of commuters and potentially increase the number of people
using public transport, however some of the commuters would still be emitting pollutants,
just on other roads.
An expansion of the road or a
better redesign of the traffic system could improve the pollution levels as
each individual polluting vehicle would spend less time stuck in traffic,
however an expansion of Marylebone Road would not be achievable as the road is
surrounded by other infrastructure.
To conclude, while the monthly
and diurnal average levels of PM10, NO2 and O3 were reduced at both Marylebone
Road and Wicken Fen from 2009 to 2016, the levels of PM10 and NO2 pollutants
were higher at Marylebone Road for both years, while the levels of O3 were
higher in Wicken Fen as theorised due to the higher number of polluting
vehicles at Marylebone Road that release more particulates and nitrogen oxides
(NO and NO2), and higher levels of NO pollutant would react with O3 therefore lowering
The levels of PM10 and NO2 are
potentially hazardous at Marylebone Road and steps should be taken to reduce
the levels of pollutants to safe or at the least achievable levels, to do so a
proposition for a short term solution is to set up an automated toll system
over the Marylebone road to reduce the number of commuters, while also
utilising the toll payments to invest in clean air initiatives, this would work
as the tax would only affect the polluters.
For a long term solution a
complete ban on the sales of any new private petrol or diesel vehicles in the
near future could be set as law to promote the usage of public transport or
electric vehicles that do not emit these pollutants, this is not possible as of
yet however by around 2040 the ban is a reality.