Birmingham Friends of the Earth is campaigning for our city to get moving on air pollution and active transport.

Welcome to the West Midlands, the UK’s second most polluted conurbation!1 A recent ruling by the UK Supreme Court said that Birmingham was one of 16 UK cities found to be in breach of air quality laws.

The effects of our transport on CO2 levels are well known and climate change is rarely out of the news. However, there is another consequence to our addiction to fossil fuelled transport – air pollution is damaging our health.

 Did you know?

  • There are many chemicals being pumped into the air that we consider air pollution including: Nitrogen Oxides, Particulate Matter, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide.

  • Some of these, such as Benzene, have even been shown to be Carcinogenic.2

  • 40 out of 43 air quality zones in the UK breached limits for Nitrogen Dioxide emissions in 20113 and 38 zones breached them in 20124

  • Air pollution is contributes to around 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.5

  • Health impacts of poor air quality costs the UK up to £17 Billion a year.6 The equates to 283 million a year for Birmingham, if the cost is spread equally per head of the population.

The Problem

In the past the main causes of air pollution were heavy industry and domestic coal-burning stoves. This caused dense smog such as in London in 1952. While the decline of heavy industry and the introduction of modern central heating systems, alongside regulations on air quality, mean that such smog events are much less likely to occur, this doesn’t mean air pollution is no longer a problem.

Today, in the absence of heavy industry, the biggest cause of poor air quality is traffic. While Carbon Dioxide emissions have rightly had a lot of attention with regards to Climate Change, fossil-fuel transport also emits many other chemicals which have an impact on our health, contributing to numerous respiratory illnesses such as asthma .7, 8, 9

National government is doing very little to combat the problem, so it’s vital that we do as much as we can locally. Birmingham City Council monitors pollution at just six sites throughout the city; some of which are consistently in breech of European regulations on air quality.

The quality of the air we breathe has massive impacts on our health and well-being, making it vital that Birmingham’s air quality is improved.