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By Nick Cassells
During Green Week earlier this month in the UK considerable attention was paid to air pollution across the EU. It is an invisible problem which actually causes a lot of damage. Although in recent years, all over Europe, there have been significant improvements in reductions of emissions from industry, transport and energy, more still needs to be done.
Several air quality standards have been widely exceeded in some of Europe’s most densely
populated areas, especially from pollutants such as particulate matter emitted by transport, power stations and the like, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. The Green Week conference heard that urban air pollution is set to overtake dirty water and sanitation as the world’s biggest environmental cause of premature deaths. It also generates high economic costs linked to hospital admissions, lost working days and damage to ecosystems. Air pollution is responsible for cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, allergies and asthma. According to the EU more than 400,000 Europeans died prematurely from air pollution in 2010. The economic deficit in lost workdays alone cost the European economy €12 billion (£10 billion) in that year. In addition there are the costs of healthcare for those sufferers.
Air pollution damages buildings and machinery, erodes amenities like trees (from acid rain) and
leaks into soil and water, damaging the environment in a myriad of ways. Information
obtained from Boris Johnson’s office by Clean Air London (CAL) showed that London was suffering heavily from pollution, especially on major roads.
Unfortunately most businesses do not take sufficient notice of the effects of air pollution.
The European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, said that air quality was one of the few areas that had seen an absolute decoupling between economic growth and emissions. In other words: sustainability. Further improvements can be made, and there are economic opportunities for agile green businesses to move into pollution abatement technology and services markets.
It is to be expected that in future higher standards for clean air will be expected in office buildings,
residences and vehicle emissions Apart from the health implications, it looks like forward-thinking businesses and property owners should include air pollution in their plans to conserve energy and reduce emissions, as this will ensure that they reap the benefits from this strategy as well as show their understanding of environmental problems, as part of their social responsibility.
Nick Cassells is an editor and copywriter, and partners with Justepc to create news and opinion blog articles about renewables, sustainability and energy efficiency