Scientists search city skies for a 'breath of fresh air'

Issue date: 09 August 2005

Issue date: 09/08/05

Two members of the National Society for Clean Air (NSCA), including a scientist from the University of the West of England (UWE) will take to the skies in a hot air balloon over Bristol this week to test the quality of the City’s air and highlight pollution issues.

Clare Beattie of the Air Quality Management (AQM) Centre at UWE along with a colleague from the NSCA will be testing the air above Bristol as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the need to reduce emissions in the UK to meet international standards.
First Flight, a locally-based hot air balloon company ( offered to take the scientists into the skies at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta to draw attention to the serious issue of air pollution.

Clare Beattie explains, “Improving poor air quality is a top priority for the NSCA. Across the UK, local authorities are trying desperately to achieve air quality objectives, which are in danger of being exceeded largely due to traffic emissions. Bristol is no exception. The UK exceeded European air quality standards for fine particles, caused by pollution from traffic, for the 36th time this year in London in May - only 35 breaches are allowed for the whole year [1]. This means the UK could face legal action, by the European Commission, or UK citizens or groups taking private action in the domestic courts.

“Scientists like myself who work to improve air quality are concerned about the health impacts of particles in the air. A recent study concluded that fine particles are responsible for an estimated 30,000 UK deaths per year and they reduce average life expectancy by 6 months [3]. There are also worrying links to asthma and lung cancer. Even the World Health Organisation says air quality in Europe is a threat to human health.[4]
“We are concerned that the government’s strategy for change will take too long to implement and the risks to health will continue. The NSCA is calling for stronger action in the short-term as well as long-term measures, both to eliminate pollution hot spots and to reduce the exposure of members of the public to high concentrations of particles and other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide.

“We feel there is a need for encouraging:
• cleaner technology, combined with higher tax rates for high emitting vehicles;
• adequate funding and political support for Bristol and other local authorities to pursue and deliver air quality improvements at a local level, and
• accelerated implementation of management options such as road-user charging and low emission zones.
Anyone wanting further information about the work of the NSCA should contact the Division’s Secretary on 0117 922 3389.


Editor’s notes

The scientists will be measuring the particulates in the air above Bristol using a hand held battery operated PM10 monitor supplied by EnviroTechnology
The balloon flight will take place on Friday morning at 5.45am from Ashton Court. For full details and photo opportunities contact: Clare Beattie – work – 0117 328 3825 Mobile 07813 436091.
Further information about First Flight can be obtained from or on 01934 852875.
The National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection (NSCA) is a registered charity with over 100 years of experience in campaigning, public information provision, providing educational resources, policy formulation and project delivery.

The AQM Centre at UWE is heavily involved in the work of the NSCA.
Background Notes:
[1] Breaches have also been recorded in other member states this year. The issue has attained a very high profile in some places. There have been a number of legal cases brought through domestic courts (e.g. Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Italy). This highlights the potential for raising the profile of air quality issues amongst the general public. (Note: though the impression is that since the UK is much more advanced in terms of assessment and action planning than some member states, this puts the UK government in a stronger position over the breaches).
[2] The first daughter directive under the Air Quality Assessment and Management Directive
[3] CAFE CBA: Baseline Analysis 2000 to 2020 (AEAT, January 2005) [p88 for UK].
[4] Health Aspects of Air Pollution (WHO, June 2004)

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