Breathe in the fresh air…or is it?
The quality of the air we all breathe often gets overlooked, until it becomes so bad that it affects our health
So fundamental for life that we take it for granted: we expect the air that we breathe to be clean. But in many places in the UK – busy towns and cities in particular – it isn’t. In the UK it is estimated that illnesses linked to air pollution contribute to the deaths of 40,000 people each year. There are many sources of air pollution but one of the biggest culprits is from the use of diesel.
Air Quality - Sustainability Short
Reducing the impacts of poor air quality is a significant issue which we need to take into account in how we run our construction sites and the kinds of plant and equipment we use. Watch this short animation to get an introduction on why air quality is a key issue on construction sites, and most importantly, what you can do to reduce air pollution when you’re working on site.
More and more cities are setting up clean air zones to reduce the impact on citizens’ health from poor air quality. This largely means the restriction of older vehicles on our roads through the imposition of engine emission standards. This applies as much to road going vehicles as it does to construction plant and vehicles.
The School’s Plant Category Group established a need to know which UK Councils and regions have Clean Air Zones (CAZ) or Low Emissions Zones (LEZ), or are planning them. We developed an interactive map, available to everyone, that provides detailed information about the UK’s Clean Air and Low Emission Zones. Access the map HERE
Whilst European standards are forcing manufacturers to make new vehicle engines to ever cleaner limits, there is still a large number of vehicles and plant in the ‘UK fleet’ that have older, less clean emissions.
Emissions can be reduced by using more modern equipment that inherently has lower emissions, using tailpipe solutions such as diesel particulate filters to reduce emissions, and better driver behaviour to minimise necessary emissions.
The reason for this is that the use of diesel creates emissions of nitrogen dioxide and fine soot (particulate matter), more so than from petrol engines, that if not reduced or controlled are known to cause significant chronic health problems such as respiratory diseases and cancer.
Moreover, poor air quality has a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable in society, including children, those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.
All of these factors have led to many organisations such as the GLA, Highways England, HS2 to stipulate specific requirements for the road going and non-road going vehicles used on their projects. Many UK cities now similarly have ‘Low Emissions Zones’ and ‘Clean Air Zones’ to reduce emissions of air pollutants. Understanding the key issues associated with poor air quality, and what your organisation can do to reduce its air quality impacts is likely to have key benefits for your business, as well as wider community benefits in the places you work.
Of course, switching fuel and power source to an alternative with lower emissions is the goal for both air quality and climate change impacts – hybrid, battery, hydrogen…
Topics related to air quality
Poor air quality is a significant environmental impact on construction sites. Environmental management is required to make sure that these impacts are minimised. Although Air Quality is a separate issue to climate change, reducing your fossil fuel use will have the combined benefit of less carbon emissions and better on site air quality.