South East's Green MEP launches pollution campaign

4 August 2011

‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer' asserts that air pollution is creating an invisible public health crisis which is not being properly addressed by the UK government.

Long term exposure to air pollution is associated with heart and lung disease. The report includes recent research from California (2) which has shown that children growing up near motorways can suffer permanently reduced lung capacity.

Government figures show that the health costs of just one pollutant, PM2.5, are already £15 billion each year (3). Yet the UK government is failing to implement legally binding EU levels on air quality.

In 2009 the EU started legal action against the UK for breaching safe levels of pollutants, but the government has now been granted more time to meet the EU's deadline. If the UK doesn't comply with safe levels the government risks being fined up to £300m (4).

‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer' contains a map which shows that air pollution is widespread across London and South East England. Many local authorities in the region have declared that they are likely to exceed the required EU safe levels for pollutants - Keith believes that this inertia is unacceptable.

Up to 70% of air pollution in urban areas is from road transport (5). Keith's air pollution campaign is calling for national government to provide adequate funding to local authorities to invest in public transport, promoting walking and cycling and introduce public information systems to alert people to air pollution.

Keith Taylor MEP said: "The right to breathe clean air is fundamental. Yet thousands of lives in the South East are being shortened because air is heavily polluted in many places, mostly by traffic. This is an invisible public health crisis which urgently needs to be tackled.

"The UK government has recently admitted that it will not meet the required EU limits for Nitrogen Dioxide and must now explain this sorry state of affairs to the European Commission.

"The EU air quality standards have been put in place and agreed on by Member States because they set safe limits for the air we breathe. I am putting pressure on the European Commission to make sure that they do not allow the UK government to shirk its responsibility."

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said: "I welcome this new campaign from Green MEP Keith Taylor, which I hope will increase public awareness of the risk to our health from poor air quality.

"Despite significant new evidence of the scale of the health risk from pollution, the government has done very little to communicate it to the public. And the fact that it has been forced to apply for more time to meet its EU deadlines indicates a total policy failure.

"In Brighton and Hove, standards for nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeded at 20 sites across the city - with much of the pollution being caused by traffic.

"Instead of trying to water down the current EU laws and wasting money on short term cosmetic fixes, such as sticking pollution to the roads or cleaning the areas around air quality monitors - as we have seen in London, for example - Ministers should be creating an urgent cross departmental strategy to reduce pollution."

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1. Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer can be downloaded at Keith is launching his campaign in Southampton, which is currently piloting the Air Alert scheme which informs local people about daily levels of air pollutants. Keith will then take his campaign to other towns and cities in the South East which are affected by air pollution - Winchester, Oxford, Reading, Maidstone, Canterbury, Redhill and Hove.

2. California Environment Protection Agency Air Resource Board

3. Source: ‘Air Pollution: Action in a Changing Climate', DEFRA -

4. Source:

5. Source: