Air quality

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Studies have shown that some of the poorest air quality levels in Waltham Forest are adjacent to the busiest roads in the borough and the whole borough has been declared an Air Quality Management area.

The elevated levels of pollution along the busy main roads confirm that road traffic is the principal source contributing to Waltham Forest’s poor air quality. The main pollutants of concern in Waltham Forest are Nitrogen dioxide and particulates, or PM10’s.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has been monitoring air quality across the borough since 1993.

We currently have three automatic monitoring sites:

  1. Dawlish Road urban background
  2. Crooked Billet kerbside
  3. Ruckholt Close roadside

All three sites monitor for PM10 and NO2. Data from all three sites is listed online for the public to freely access. Data collected from 1998 to March 2011 is listed in the London Air Quality Network (LAQN). Data collected from April 2011 onwards is listed in the Air Quality England (AQE) website.

In addition to the automatic monitoring sites, Waltham Forest also has 24 NO2 diffusion tube sites. Their locations are listed in our annual status report below.
The data from these monitoring sites has been used to model excrescences in the EU limit for annual NO2, specifically for relevant exposure. These studies have shown that the number of households exposed to more than the EU recommended maximum amount of Nitrogen Dioxide has dropped dramatically, from 58,000 in 2007 to just 6,300 in 2017. The full reports can be viewed below:

Please find link to the London Borough of Waltham Forest's air quality annual status report for 2017 and our air quality action plan 2018-2023.

To obtain diffusion tube data, please contact the Environmental Health Team on 0208 496 3000 or by email EnvironmentalHealth@walthamforest.gov.uk.

This year ahead of Clean Air Day we are inviting members of the London Environment Directors network to a cycling tour of the borough to discover some of the measures we have put in place to encourage our residents, staff and visitors to choose active travel methods and leave polluting transport modes behind. These include physical changes to our road network as well as cycle training and bike hire options for residents and visitors to provide access to one of the cheapest and healthy methods of getting around. 

On Clean Air Day itself we will also be carrying out our regular anti-idling operations in Walthamstow town centre, where we will be encouraging motorists to turn off their engines while dropping off passengers or waiting outside shops, to ensure everyone is breathing better air.

Councillors and staff are also getting involved and making pledges to help improve air quality for the day, and for the year. Some are committing to leaving the car at home on Clean Air Day, while others are pledging to cycle over a thousand miles this year. 

Check out what we get up to on the day on our social media channels and search the hashtag #CleanAirDay.

The Environment Act 1995 Click to get info

The Environment Act 1995, Part IV requires councils to carry out a review and assessment of the air quality in their area. This process uses air pollution monitoring results, emission inventories, and pollution modelling to determine if the targets will be met.

Since 1988 Waltham Forest Council has produced various reports to comply with the requirements under the Environment Act 1995, Part IV. These reports include Updating and Screening Assessments, Detailed Assessments, Progress Reports as well as any other additional assessments if required. Based on the findings of these reports the whole borough of Waltham Forest was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for NO2 and PM10 in 2002.

Download Waltham Forest Council NLCG Modelling Assessment 2009 (629KB PDF file)

The following maps are modelled pollutant maps for the London Boroughs and districts of the North London Cluster Group; which includes the areas of Haringey, Enfield, Barnet, Harrow, Hertsmere, Epping Forest and Waltham Forest. (7 Boroughs/Districts):

The London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Haringey have worked with Groundwork London to engage with nine schools to deliver an air pollution education programme (3862KB PDF file). The project engaged 5 primary schools in the London Borough of Haringey and 4 primary schools in the borough of Waltham Forest.

This project involved delivering a number of science based air pollution lessons looking at local air pollution levels via GIS and an investigation activity into the particulate levels at participating schools. This was followed by a creative workshop chosen by the school (ranging from travel related workshops, solar oven building or arts and crafts based creative exploration of the air quality theme). Schools also had the opportunity to receive an interactive 'fun' animation session about air pollution using the schools individual messages they wanted to portray, as well as the option to go on a field trip on the topic of sustainable cities. This project was to raise awareness of the risks that are associated with air pollution and the actions that can be taken to improve air quality.

Watch videos on air pollution

Children at Edinburgh Primary School, Roger Ascham Primary School, and Woodside Primary School produced stop motion videos on air pollution.

Watch on our YouTube channel:

Edinburgh Primary School

Roger Ascham Primary School

Woodside Primary School

According to Defra´s Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: “Air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months with estimated equivalent health costs of up to £20 billion each year. Air pollution also has a detrimental effect on our ecosystems and vegetation.”

The Air Quality Strategy 2007 details the government's standards and objectives for 8 main pollutants. The objectives have to be met by their respective target year. The pollutants of concern are:

  • Ozone
  • Benzene
  • 1,3 Butadiene
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • PM10 (Particles/Dust below 10 microns in diameter)
  • Lead

The pollutants of concern today in Waltham Forest are nitrogen dioxide and particulates, or PM10’s. These pollutants are given off from motor vehicle exhausts and account for the majority of Waltham Forest’s air pollution problem. Pollutants given off from car exhausts, which are known to damage health, include carbon monoxide, benzene, nitrogen dioxide and particulates (microscopic specks of dust and soot).

These pollutants are often produced when the car engine is not working efficiently. Carbon monoxide is produced when the engine does not burn fuel efficiently, often because there is not enough air in the mixture. Benzene is a component of fuel and often ends up in exhaust gases.

Health effects Click to get info

PM10 Particulates

Particulates also referred to as particulate matter or fine particulates come from a variety of sources. These can include combustion sources (motor vehicles, biomass, bonfires, etc), secondary particles (sulphate and nitrate formed by chemical reactions in the atmosphere) and coarse particles (sea salt, soils, dusts, etc). Fine particulates can travel deep into the lungs which can cause inflammation and negatively impact on those with heart and lung diseases. Additionally, fine particulates can also carry carcinogenic compounds into ones respiratory system. Effects from Particulates can range from days of restricted activity to early death. Currently, the Air Quality Strategy 2007 sets a limit that PM10 cannot exceed 40ug/m3 as an annual mean.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

NO2 arises via the oxidation of nitric oxide by oxygen in the air. Primary sources of NO2 in Waltham Forest are vehicle emissions and other combustion sources such as gas boilers. This reddish brown gas can cause lung irritation and lower resistance to respiratory infections. It may also cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.

Benzene and 1,3 Butadiene

Volatile organic compounds from exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, synthetic materials and household chemicals. Possible chronic health effects include cancer, central nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, reproductive disorders, and birth defects.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas produced by incomplete, or inefficient, combustion of fuel. It is produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon containing materials such as smoking, car exhausts and unflued heating or cooking appliances.

CO can have an effect on mental activity and can worsen existing problems that affect the delivery of oxygen to the heart and lungs.

Sulphur Dioxide

This is produced from the burning of sulphur compounds that occur naturally in coal and oil.

At high levels, this acidic gas is an irritant that affects nerves in the lining of the nose, throat, lungs and airways. This, in turn, causes a cough and a feeling of chest tightening and may lead to a narrowing of the airways. This can affect asthmatics and people with chronic lung disease.

Ozone

This is caused by the reaction of nitrogen oxides with hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight. At ground level it is a pollutant which reacts easily with biological materials.

At its highest levels in the UK, some people can experience discomfort and coughing, especially whilst taking exercise. It can inflame the airways, make eyes and throats sore and increase sensitivity to allergens e.g. pollen. People who suffer from asthma do not appear to be significantly more sensitive to ozone than other people.

Air pollution can also damage trees, plants and buildings and contribute to global warming. Waltham Forest needs to act now to protect our health and environment and improve our quality of life.

Lead

It is emitted into the atmosphere from vehicles using petrol containing lead and also from some industrial processes. Lead can affect many different parts of the body, including the production of blood, the nervous system and mental functioning.

Turn your key, be idle free

Leaving your engine on whilst parked emits a significant amount of pollution into the air.  These vehicle emissions present a significant risk to health, especially for younger children.

Facts

  • Did you know that children breathe 50% more air per body weight than adults?  Therefore if you are parked outside a school with your engine running, that's more pollution that the children are breathing into their lungs. You can prevent this by making sure you turn your car engine off while parked.
  • Did you know that leaving your engine running whilst parked wastes more fuel and costs you more at the pump?   Save yourself some money and turn your engine off while parked.
  • Did you know that you can warm the inside of your car quicker by driving it instead of leaving the engine on while parked? 
  • Did you know that idling is harder on the vehicle engine than restarting it? 
  • All of Waltham Forest is an air quality management area for poor air quality.  Help us improve air quality in the borough by turning your vehicle engine off while parked for longer than one minute.

Legislation

Although the Council has mainly focussed on raising awareness and influencing drivers to turn their vehicle engines off, the Council has also recently adopted anti-idling legislation which allows for officers to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who fail to turn their engines off.

Anti-idling initiative

The Council is working with local residents to educate drivers about the negative impacts of leaving a vehicle engine running whilst parked.  Our volunteer Air Quality Champions will be working with the Council on chosen action days to engage with drivers.  If you would like to become an Air Quality Champion and volunteer to stop idling around schools, and other areas with sensitive receptors, get in touch.  Register your interest at EnvironmentalHealth@walthamforest.gov.uk

If you would like to report an area where vehicles are regularly left idling, please notify the Council on 0208 496 3000 or EnvironmentalHealth@walthamforest.gov.uk

Pollution penalty notice Click to get info

Part 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires us to take reasonable steps to investigate and, if appropriate, to take action to in the event of justified complaints of statutory nuisance.

A Statutory Nuisance in this context can include emissions of smoke, fumes or gases, dust, steam and smell. The emissions must arise from premises and must materially affect the use of enjoyment or other premises.

Typical complaints are smoke and ash from garden bonfires, smoking chimneys, dust from building and demolition activity and cooking smells from restaurants. The legislation does not allow us to deal with complaints of smells arising from domestic premises.

If satisfied that a complaint of statutory nuisance is justified, an Abatement/Penalty Notice will be served upon the person responsible, occupier or owner of the premises (as appropriate) requiring that the nuisance be abated. Failure to comply with an Abatement/Penalty Notice is an offence and legal proceedings may result.

If you have an ideas or suggestions that could help us improve our services, please complete our feedback form and return to us.

There are many things that you can do to help reduce pollution levels and improve the quality of life for yourself, your family and others. Such as:

  • Walk
  • Cycle
  • Use public transportation
  • If you need to drive, limit the amount of small trips
  • Participate in car sharing schemes
  • Car pool
  • Avoid having bonfires
  • Only use exempt fireplaces and authorised fuels (you can find out more information about exempt fireplaces and authorised fuels)
  • Insulate your home
  • Regularly service your boiler

If you really need to use a car, you can help reduce pollution caused by vehicle emissions and so improve air quality in Waltham Forest by choosing a car with:

  • Catalytic converter
  • Oxidation catalyst
  • LPG powered
  • Use reduced sulphur in fuel
  • Electric powered vehicle
  • Regular vehicle maintenance and servicing – checking tuning, emission control and tyre pressure
  • Drive gently and slowly – this will reduce emissions and save fuel
  • Don’t leave your engine running when you are parked
  • If you are thinking of purchasing a new car, van or motorcycle choose one with the lowest air pollution emissions

It is emphasised that residents are responsible for avoiding smoke emission that causes a nuisance, as this is an offence.

Failure to comply with this information and advice may result in legal proceedings and financial penalties.

airTEXT Click to get info

airTEXT is a unique air quality information service for people who live or work in London and who suffer from:

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Heart disease
  • Angina

If you have one of these conditions you may be affected by higher than normal levels of air pollution.

airTEXT is designed to alert you when air pollution levels are raised so that you can take precautions to help reduce the likelihood of any impacts.

When air pollution is predicted to exceed moderate levels you will receive an SMS message, a voice mail or an email to warn you that pollution may be elevated.

The messages will provide you with health advice but the action you can take depends on the level of pollution expected. This could include taking your inhaler or angina spray with you, taking extra doses if symptoms worsen, and avoiding strenuous outdoor activity on polluted days.

How do I register?

The service is free. Register for it at the airTEXT website  or by calling the airTEXT co-ordinators on 020 8760 5483 or by texting “AIRTEXT WALTHAM FOREST” to 78070.

Walkit.com Click to get info

Walkit.com is a web based urban walking route planner that allows you to plan your journeys via less polluted routes. Whether you want to find a quick and easy route to the shops or simply plan a wander around, walkit.com not only helps you plan your journey but also tells you how many calories you'll burn and how much carbon dioxide you'll save by walking rather than driving or taking public transport.

As well as mapping out your walk, giving you step by step instructions and telling you how long it will take, walkit.com also gives you the choice to choose a direct route, a more leisurely option or even the one with the least air pollution.

For further details and to plan your next walking adventure visit the walkit.com website.

Smoke control areas Click to get info

All of Waltham Forest is a Smoke Control Area therefore only exempt appliances and or approved fuels can be used in the borough. See GOV.UK for a list of exempt appliances and approved fuels.

Please note that even with an exempt appliance or approved fuel, you may still cause a nuisance and are therefore not exempt from nuisance legislation.

Also, fireplaces, wood burners and biomass boilers still emit a significant amount of pollution to air, especially particulates which are so small. They can travel deep into the lungs and adversely affect human health.

In 2018 Waltham Forest Council commissioned King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group to model the impacts of recent road interventions in the borough, particularly the Enjoy Waltham Forest scheme, on air quality. 

The report found that that measures to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists such as segregated cycle lanes, increased pocket parks and timed road closures had made a marked contribution to improving air quality and health in the borough