A list of frequently asked questions on air quality issues.
A1. LAQM stands for Local Air Quality Management.
A2. The Environment Act 1995 places a duty on Local Authorities to review the air quality in their area. Local air quality is assessed at locations of relevant exposure such as residential properties, schools and care homes, and reviewed against National Air Quality Objectives.
A3. The National Air Quality Strategy sets air quality objectives for England and Wales. The aim is to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy acceptable levels of air quality that meet these objectives. The main concerns within the Borough relate to the nitrogen dioxide annual air quality objective of 40μg/m3 (micrograms per metre cubed).
A4. Ipswich Borough Council carries out an assessment for the following pollutants in accordance with the National Air Quality Strategy to ensure the standards and objectives will be met. These are:
A5. The burning of coal, natural gases and fuel produces oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions, mainly in the form of Nitrogen Oxide (NO). Chemical reactions then occur in the atmosphere with the NO, which produce nitrogen dioxide. The main source of NOx emissions is road vehicles. Older and larger cars will produce higher levels of NOx.
A6. Sources of particulate air pollution can come from a range of sources, including road transport and domestic burning but it can also come from environmental sources such as forest fires and ocean spray. Atmospheric conditions can also cause pollution to travel long distances so some of the levels of particulate pollution within the Borough may not be attributable to sources within the town. It will be important for this to be addressed on a national level, nonetheless, the Council aspires to reduce levels of air pollution to as low as practicable.
A7. The Council monitors levels of Nitrogen Dioxide using a network of over 90 monitoring sites. This is made up of two automatic sites (which measure air pollution continuously using real-time continuous analysers) and diffusion tubes (which are less sophisticated and give a monthly average pollution level after being analysed at a laboratory). The Council has previously used dispersion modelling for particulates.
A8. Recent air quality screening carried out on behalf of the Council indicates that we were below legal values set my central government for particulates.
A9. If it is determined that any of the Air Quality Objectives are not being or are unlikely to be met, the local authority has a duty to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), to carry out an assessment and then develop an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) by working with other relevant stakeholders such as Suffolk County Council. The aim of the AQAP is to reduce the pollutant concentration(s) in pursuit of the Air Quality Objective(s). The Council must also annually report to DEFRA on progress with a current AQAP via Annual Status Reports (ASR’s).
A10. Yes, Ipswich has 5 AQMAs. Their locations are detailed in our current Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) and current Annual Status Report (ASR) available here. Defra have approved the Council’s current AQAP and latest ASR.
A11. No. Across the UK, there are over 500 AQMAs declared by more than 250 councils. The vast majority of these are for potential exceedances of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide national air quality objective, as a result of emissions from road traffic sources.
A12. Nitrogen dioxide can have both long and short-term health effects. Short-term effects include irritation of the eyes and throat and can lead to the increase of symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. The long-term health effects will increase the susceptibility to respiratory conditions among healthy individuals, and lead to gradual deterioration in health of people already suffering from respiratory problems, particularly elderly people.
A13. The World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates there is no safe level for exposure to particulates. The Government will need to determine whether they will require councils to meet WHO’s guidelines or possibly an even stricter target.
A14. A recent report produced by the British Heart Foundation indicated that 75 councils across the UK exceeded the WHO average for PM2.5 in 2018 based on Defra estimates. Ipswich was one of these councils, with an estimate of around 10.83 µg/m3, whereas the WHO guideline is 10 µg/m3. The current Government objective limit for PM2.5 is 25 µg/m3 which Ipswich is within.
A15. People already susceptible to respiratory illness could feel the effects more acutely or at lower levels of pollution. Those with heart disease, asthma and bronchitis, especially young and elderly people, should try to avoid prolonged exposure to busy traffic and keep road-facing windows closed during peak hours if possible.
A16. Air pollution and deaths is a complex issue. The fact that air pollution is bad for health is not disputed. Attributing cause and effect with certainty is more problematic. Exposure, the mix of pollutants and the susceptibility of individuals all plays a part.
The death estimates for the UK, and inferred for Ipswich, is the outcome of a statistical exercise to estimate the number of lives prematurely ended (life years lost) through exposure to PM and NO2. The calculations from the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) and others is one of “life years lost” through exposure – from which an estimate of deaths is then produced. Death certificates do not say that air pollution is the cause but air pollution contributes to the bringing forward of deaths through worsening heath by a variety of mechanisms.
A17. Designation of AQMAs is a legislative requirement and not an optional process. Other councils have declared AQMAs and to the best of our knowledge there have been no reported effects on property values. However, if you live within one of the AQMAs and wish to sell your property this information may be declared if an environmental search is carried out.
A18. No, but the Council has to make the information available to the public and it is placed on a national website by Defra. We publish all our local air quality information locally here.
A19. No, the Council will continue to monitor the levels of NO2 across the town and within each AQMA, and should the annual average levels fall below the national objective within an AQMA it can be revoked.
A20. The Council has produced an Air Quality Action Plan and is involved in implementing the numerous measures within the plan to tackle air quality and reduce levels of pollution. We are working in partnership with Public Health, Suffolk County Council and the other Suffolk councils to ensure these measures are prioritised and actioned.
The Council has been takingpositive action towards reducing pollution levels in the town which has included:
A21. Levels of some air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, are not falling as quickly as expected. It might take a number of years to meet the national objectives in some AQMA areas. The Government has a responsibility to meet limits set by the European Union. The Air Quality Directive, which set out these EU limits, has been transposed by UK law with the same limit values applying. The Government says it is committed to making the air cleaner regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
We will keep trying to reduce air pollution within the Air Quality Management Area and across the town to achieve air quality objectives and limits in the future. This is likely to take a number of years.
A22. The current Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) and latest Annual Status Report (ASR) are available here. Defra have approved the Council’s current AQAP and latest ASR. Historic reports can be found here too.
A23. We mostly monitor alongside busy roads, or on narrow congested streets, where air pollution is likely to be worse. We also monitor at several 'background' locations, away from busy roads. Current monitoring locations are detailed in our latest Annual Status Report (ASR) are available here.
A24. In order to accurately work out what average levels of nitrogen dioxide are in the Borough, the Council has to firstly gather a whole year’s worth of diffusion tube readings, taken monthly, running from January through to December. Furthermore, before we can analyse the data obtained from a previous year, we require the latest data analysis tools provided by Defra. Typically, these tools are not available until the spring. These issues mean that we can never provide monthly up to date readings.
By the end of June every year the Council must submit an ASR to Defra which reports on our air quality monitoring data from the previous year. Once Defra have examined this report, we will publish it here. The publication of an ASR typically occurs around July every year.
A25. Over the years, we have monitored in areas of the district where we felt there was potential for levels of NO2 to be above a national objective. There have been a number of other sites where equipment has been in place but were subsequently removed as levels were not found to be high enough to warrant further monitoring. We review our monitoring locations annually and the Annual Status Report we submit to Defra ensures we consider where pollution levels or relevant exposure may change. All historical data is available here.
A26. While the Council has a responsibility to monitor levels of some key pollutants in the outdoor air we do not have equipment to monitor pollution inside homes. You can, however, purchase a carbon monoxide monitor in most home stores in the UK. This is used to test the level of carbon monoxide in the home if you are concerned that your boiler may not be working properly and is giving off fumes.
If you are worried that you have a serious problem with indoor air quality which has persisted over time you might want to consider contacting a commercial company which can carry out an assessment and suggest mitigation measures.
A27. Ipswich has two real-time continuous air quality analysers that provide up-to-date information on levels of nitrogen dioxide. Information recorded by these analysers can be found here. Please be aware that as concentrations of nitrogen dioxide typically fall off quickly from a pollution source (e.g. from an exhaust from a motor vehicle), levels recorded at these monitoring stations are unlikely to be representative of pollution levels across all areas of the town (e.g. in parks/open spaces, areas with less road traffic etc.).
The national air quality forecast can be found on DEFRA’s UK Air.
A28. The majority of Ipswich generally experiences air quality that meets National Objective Levels. However, in some areas close to busy roads, air quality does not meet the nitrogen dioxide annual mean national air quality objective level. Emissions from vehicles are the main cause of these raised nitrogen dioxide levels.
A29. As well as being better for your health and fitness, evidence shows that cyclists and pedestrians are also less exposed to air pollution than people in vehicles. This is because some pollution from exhaust gases can pass straight through a vehicles air filter and then an accumulate inside. If possible, you can further reduce your exposure by walking and cycling on less busy roads.
A30. Excessively smoky buses and lorries can be reported online to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
The information required to report a smoky vehicle online is:
A31.This is a common suggestion but unfortunately the answer is complicated as evidence from research is mixed. Some certain species of tree such as elm, silver birch and yew have been shown to effectively absorb air pollution from particulate matter. However, some trees can also give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The location and type of vegetation can also impact on air quality. Research has shown that rows of trees with large canopies on urban streets can worsen air quality by preventing pollution from dispersing. In other cases, dense hedging can be used as a barrier to protect people from pollution by inhibiting dispersion from nearby roads.
A33. Improving air quality is vital for the health and wellbeing of the people of Ipswich. There are many things that you can do to improve air quality a reduce your exposure to air pollution. Making small changes in the home or how we travel on a regular basis can help reduce how much pollution we produce and how much pollution we breathe in, and the resulting improvements in air quality, can help avoid health related issues in the future. The following are some important actions everyone can take to help make a difference when travelling around town or within the home:
A34. Yes – and particularly for larger sites. Air quality is a material planning consideration and larger development applications must be accompanied by an air quality assessment. Proposals for sites in or around AQMAs in Ipswich also have air quality assessments. Our officers consider these assessments and make recommendations accordingly.
When assessing planning applications in relation to their potential impact on the local air quality, Ipswich, amongst other Suffolk Local Authorities, refer to the most recent guidance from Environmental Protection UK (EPUK) and the institute of Air Quality Management (IAQM) to aid our assessments.
A35. Whilst there are no local byelaws or statutes that prohibit bonfires, the Council has a legal duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to investigate all complaints that could result in a Statutory Nuisance. Bonfires have the potential to be a statutory nuisance if they cause unreasonable interference with another person’s enjoyment of their property or pose a threat to the wider public health.
In general, the Council discourages garden bonfires as a means of disposing of waste. Smoke and odour from bonfires have long been a source of a significant number of complaints to local authorities every year. Smoke prevents your neighbours enjoying their garden, opening windows or putting their washing out. Depending on the atmospheric conditions, smoke may have the potential to have an impact further afield, such as affecting visibility and causing danger on the road.
Bonfires also cause air pollution. Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering rather than dry and blazing. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range of poisonous compounds that can have damaging health effects to you and the local community.
If you are planning a bonfire, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid having a one altogether, or to reduce the likelihood of it causing a statutory nuisance:
A36. Below are links to some websites that provide further general information about air quality. If you have a specific query you can contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org.