Monday 27 January 2020
Malachai O'Hara, Deputy Leader of the Green Party NI has commented on a new report linking long-term exposure to air pollution with one in every 24 deaths across Belfast.
The Centre for Cities' annual study of the UK's major urban areas, Cities Outlook 2020, found that the deadly toxin PM2.5 was linked to 178 deaths in just one year, or 4.1% of all adult deaths in the city.
While the number of deaths is lower than in some other UK capitals, Belfast is the second biggest emitter of PM2.5 per head in the UK, after Swansea.
PM2.5 is a pollutant that is a concern for people's health when levels are high. It consists of tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated.
The charity said the deadly levels of PM2.5 are currently legal in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, despite breaking the World Health Organisation's air pollution guidelines.
Malachai O'Hara said this "must be a public health priority".
"This important piece of research by the Centre for Cities starkly articulates the scale of the problem," said the councillor for the Castle area in Belfast.
"We know that people with pre-existing conditions, the elderly and children are particularly afflicted by poor air quality.
"UK-wide studies also demonstrate that poor air quality afflicts inner city and working class communities in a disproportionate way.
"I led green groups across the city in measuring Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). We identified 28 breaches of the EU legal limits.
"Since being elected last May, my first motion was to address air pollution.
"It calls for adoption of World Health Organisation limits, enhanced monitoring including PM2.5 and the creation of clean air zones.
"Belfast City Council has committed to a detailed assessment of air pollution including PM2.5 and this year will be developing a new ambitious air quality action plan, led by sustainable transport groups, public health organisations and environmental groups.
“Now we need the returned Assembly to develop the enabling legislation for clean air zones so we can provide clean air for everyone."
Notes for Editors;
1. More information on the Centre for Cities' Report
Sinead McIvor - 07701 302 498