Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Boris Johnson buried report on air pollution near London schools

From the Guardian today:
An air quality report that was not published by Boris Johnson while he was mayor of London demonstrates that 433 schools in the capital are located in areas that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution – and that four-fifths of those are in deprived areas. 
The report, Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London, said that in 2010, 433 of the city’s 1,777 primary schools were in areas where pollution breached the EU limits for NO2. Of those, 83% were considered deprived schools, with more than 40% of pupils on free school meals. 
A spokeswoman for Johnson’s successor, Sadiq Khan, said the new mayor could not understand why the research had not been published when it was completed more than two-and-a-half years ago.
This reminds me of the campaign to end the use of lead in petrol.

I remember once hearing Des Wilson, who spearheaded it, saying that the key to victory was getting the research published. So damning was it that, once it was in the public domain, the battle was effectively over.

It has been argued, incidentally, that the fall in juvenile offending in recent years can be put down to the removal of lead, and its damaging effect on the brain, from the environment.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

It's a bit more complicated than getting information reported. Once people have data, they have to know how to use it, to feel free to argue.

In the case of leaded petrol, it was known that the quantity of tetraethyl lead added to pump petrol was more than was needed to prevent knocking and valve damage in engines. The level could have been cut by two thirds without engine damage, reducing lead pollution by petrol engines by a similar amount. Thousands of members of the international Society of Automotive Engineers would have been aware of this. Lead pollution could have been reduced years earlier than the requirement for lead free petrol for new cars.

When lead free petrol and cars were introduced in Europe, manufacturers picked a low octane fuel (92 RON) copying USA practice of the 1970s. Alas 92 RON fuel requires a lower compression ratio (and/or less advanced ignition) resulting in lower efficiency. Thankfully, technology and wiser heads allowed a move to 95 RON fuel which most cars use today.

No doubt many SAE members considered that some NOx and particulate emission claims for diesel engines differed from their own experience. But an engineer would have had to be very bold to speak out against big manufacturers (see also Dr Ben Goldacre and the medical profession).

London itself has contributed to the pollution problem. Tall buildings, mirrored surfaces, underground cooling and ventilation systems pumping out warm humid air etc reduce the ability for NOx to transform to less harmful compounds.