Air quality: A follow up report - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

SUMMARY

—  The CIEH is the Professional Body for environmental health practitioners (EHPs). Many EHPs in local government perform a range of functions concerned with the monitoring and control of air quality. EHPs are also in private sector positions with an involvement in air quality, for example in respect of workplace health and safety and transport emissions.

—  The CIEH, in partnership with AEA Technology, is the largest provider of training to local authorities in the monitoring and control of industrial emissions and local air quality management.

—  Much is already known about the impacts of particulate and NO2 pollution on human and health and on the environment but there is a need for more research. Organisations like the CIEH can assist Government and others in identifying appropriate research subjects.

—  Government policies for improving air quality have not been as effective as hoped and more needs to be done in a short timescale.

—  The Government's stated policy of a greater degree of "Localism" possibly provides opportunities for more effective action to improve air quality in local areas (focus on appropriate areas and pollutants, expertise available) but also obstacles (lack of relevant data at local level, public spending cuts). The new public health agenda in England specifically has the potential to give added impetus and urgency to local action plans.

ABOUT THE CIEH

1.  As a Chartered professional body, the CIEH sets standards and accredits courses and qualifications for the education of its professional members and other environmental health practitioners. In partnership with AEAT, the CIEH provides the UK's most extensive training programme for practitioners in environmental monitoring of air quality. Members of the CIEH are involved in the provision of public information about air quality through schemes like AirText. The CIEH also provides evidence and policy advice to local and national government, environmental and public health practitioners and industry. The CIEH is a registered charity with over 10,500 members.

THE SCALE OF THE AIR POLLUTION CHALLENGE

2.  As the Committee's earlier report[14] explained, there is some research evidence as to the substantial mortality and cost impacts of poor air quality. The Committee called for further research to be carried out, for example into the costs to the NHS, and for more data to be made available relevant to localities. To date, the CIEH is not aware of any improvement on, nor differentiation of, the Defra figures for economic impacts in the range £8 billion to £17 billion.[15] The GLA has produced a report on estimation of mortality impacts of particulate air pollution in London.[16]

3.  There remains a need for further research and the Government has not yet responded positively to the Committee's earlier recommendation in taking forward this research. The CIEH and others are currently investigating whether there may be other avenues for commissioning relevant research, for example research into the costs to the NHS of poor air quality. There is a need for evidence also to support the quantification of the benefits - economic, environmental and social - that improving air quality delivers.

4.  The members of the CIEH who are engaged in professional work concerning air quality, including those who collect data from monitoring in the course of their duties, are something of an un-tapped national resource. The CIEH would be interested in taking part in deliberations as to how to make best use of the expertise of, and the data generated by, these EHPs.

POLICY RESPONSES

5.  Clearly, existing public policy is not leading to improvements in air quality on the scale required. The EU Commission continues to threaten the UK with large fines over levels of particulate pollution. The Government's responses of seeking further exemptions and passing the obligation to pay those fines to local authorities do not, in our view, amount in themselves to an effective policy response to the challenges faced.

6.  Notwithstanding, the policy development in respect of public health services in England is potentially a step in the right direction. The agenda set for public health improvement in England by the Marmot report[17] provides a platform from which to argue the urgency of the need for action on poor air quality. Raising the profile of public health services (and not least local environmental health services) in tackling such wider determinants of poor health and health inequalities may provide added impetus for more effective action at the local level. Better evidence is nonetheless needed to support effective public health services at the local level, however, including area-specific data on the scale of the problem: mortality, morbidity, cost to healthcare services, costs to employers in lost productivity and so on.

3 June 2011


14   5th Report 22 March 2010 HC 229-I & II Back

15   Updated Third Report of the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits July 2007 Back

16   Dr. Brian G Miller June 2010 Back

17   Fair Society, Healthier Lives. Feb 2010. Back


 
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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 14 November 2011