Heavy metal slips down UK air quality charts

Jan 14, 2008

Air quality in the UK has improved significantly over the last 25 years according to a report published by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). Monitoring at 17 testing sites around the UK shows a fall in the presence of harmful heavy metals such as lead, iron and copper in the air we breathe.

Results show a 70% reduction in the average presence of all heavy metals tested over the period. The total average concentration has fallen from 1873 nanograms per cubic metre of air in 1980 to just 568 ng/m3 in 2006 for the nine elements monitored. Lead has seen a particularly sharp decline falling from 556 ng/m3 in 1980 to 19.95ng/m3 last year. A reduction of 96.5%.

The decrease in air pollution reflects a move to greener industrial and household processes and advances in environmentally focused technology such as unleaded petrol. Dr Richard Brown, Principal Research Scientist at NPL explains.

‘Taking lead as an example, the steady decline of emissions from coal and oil combustion along with the change in fuel usage, and reductions in industrial output, has resulted in a significant reduction of lead in the atmosphere. We expect to see this decline continuing across the board until levels finally bottom out and become close to those occurring naturally.’

Air quality is measured on a monthly basis by collecting filters provided to the participating sites by NPL. These are returned to the laboratory where the results are analysed and collated. Results show that levels of all 13 harmful elements monitored are below those demanded by European directives and all are already well inside the UK’s air quality objectives for 2009.

Air pollution has been recognised as a danger to public health for over 200 years but it is only since 1980 that supporting data for metals has been widely available. Disparate air monitoring sites were brought together under the umbrella of the UK Heavy Metals Monitoring Network in 2003. The network is run on behalf of Defra by NPL, the UK’s national measurement institute.

Source: National Physical Laboratory

Explore further: Risks from extreme weather are 'significant and increasing'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sickness stalks India village with toxic water

Nov 11, 2014

Through his bloodshot, ruined eyes, ten-year-old Roshan Singh struggles to read his favourite comic book before readying for school in this remote and desolate village along the Indian-Pakistan border.

Study shows no lead pollution in oilsands region

Oct 24, 2014

New research from a world-renowned soil and water expert at the University of Alberta reveals that there's no atmospheric lead pollution in Alberta's oilsands region—a finding that contradicts current scientific ...

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

Oct 20, 2014

Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old ...

Under Rainier's crater, a natural laboratory like no other

Oct 03, 2014

Counting all the ups and downs, he had climbed more than 15,000 feet to get here - past yawning crevasses and over cliffs where a single misstep could send a rope team tumbling. His party was pummeled by a lightning storm ...

New material steals oxygen from the air

Sep 30, 2014

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized crystalline materials that can bind and store oxygen in high concentrations. Just one spoon of the substance is enough to absorb all the ...

Recommended for you

Education is key to climate adaptation

5 hours ago

Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation ...

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

15 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.