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New air quality results reveal high pollution in Levenshulme as parents call for action on Clean Air Day (Clean Air Levenshulme and Manchester Friends of the Earth press release)

news release

An investigation by a group of Levenshulme parents and Manchester Friends of the Earth into air quality in the Manchester suburb has revealed alarmingly high levels of air pollution.  

If air pollution levels were as bad all year as they were for the duration of the study this could mean that residents across Levenshulme would be breathing illegally polluted air – including near community facilities on Stockport Road and near schools and nurseries. One measurement near Levenshulme Station found pollution levels almost twice the legal limit.

The local residents tested air quality using diffusion pollution tubes to measure nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at key locations [1]. The annual legal limit for NOis 40 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) but there are no safe levels of exposure to air pollution. NO2 is a toxic gas which inflames the lining of the lungs.

Pollution was monitored for between 2 to 4 weeks to give a snapshot of air quality. Results showed pollution levels to be exceeding what would be the annual legal limit in several locations including:

  • Levenshulme Station, Albert Road: 78.65 μg/m3 
  • 835/837 Stockport Road (outside Betfred): 64.65 μg/m3 ·  
  • Arcadia Leisure Centre and Library, 797 Stockport Road: 64.4 μg/m3 
  • Stockport Road / Albert Road Junction pedestrian island: 68.9 μg/m3 
  • St Mark’s Church, Barlow Road: 77 μg/m3 
  • 198 Broom Lane: 55.94 μg/m3 
  • Marley Road/Stockport Road junction: 54.43 μg/m3 
  • Small Wonders Nursery, Mount Road: 49.93 μg/m3 
  • Crayfield Road: 44.88 μg/m3 
  • Tesco pedestrian crossing, Stockport Road: 43.9 μg/m3 
  • Chapel St Primary School, Chapel St: 43.21 μg/m3
  • 245 Broom Lane: 49.33 μg/m3
  • Madina Mosque, Barlow Road: 37.8 μg/m3 

Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, but each year in the UK air pollution causes 36,000 early deaths, and stunts the development of children’s lungs. [2]

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a range of health impacts including damaging lung function, triggering asthma, increasing blood pressure, strokes, and increasing lung and heart-related hospital admissions and deaths. [3]  In Greater Manchester, one of the most polluted regions in the UK, it has been estimated that air pollution contributes to at least 1,200 premature deaths each year. [4]

Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution as their lungs are still developing.  Asthma and Lung UK have reported that Greater Manchester has “one of the highest rates in the country for emergency admissions in children with lower respiratory tract infections.”[5]

The local monitoring results come as Greater Manchester leaders have been required by Government to provide additional evidence that their ‘Do Minimum’ plan to tackle illegal air pollution would meet legal limits in the shortest time possible, as required by law. [6]

A charging Clean Air Zone should have been introduced in May 2023 but this was scrapped by Mayor Andy Burnham in February 2022, despite the evidence that clean air zones work to reduce pollution and health impacts from dirty air. The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London reduced roadside NO2 by 36% in its first six months of operation. [7] There have also been 30% fewer hospital admissions for asthma across all age groups since the ULEZ was introduced. [8]

A spokesperson for Clean Air Levenshulme said:

“Our air quality testing shows children in Levenshulme are breathing in dangerously high levels of pollution, stunting their lung growth and affecting their health for the rest of their lives.

“It’s outrageous that local and national leaders have done so little to tackle a problem they have known about for years.

“We need urgent action to clean up our air including School Streets and safer connected routes for walking and cycling across Manchester, and better public transport.”

Pete Abel of Manchester Friends of the Earth, said:

“Air pollution is a public health emergency. In Greater Manchester at least 1200 people die early every year as a result of pollution, and road traffic pollution is the biggest problem.

“Greater Manchester’s watered-down clean air plan is unacceptable. We need urgent action to get the dirtiest vehicles off our roads, starting with an Ultra Low Emissions Zone for the inner ring road.

“Local councils must enable more people to walk and cycle more and choose public transport by reallocating road space to safe walking and cycling routes and buses.

“How many more people have to be harmed before our politicians stop making excuses and start taking action on this public health emergency?”

Greater Manchester leaders have until the end of June to submit additional evidence to the Government to support their Clean Air Plan.

Final plans for the Levenshulme and Burnage Low Traffic Neighbourhood are still yet to be implemented almost 4 years into the process [8]. Consultation first began in Autumn 2019 on what was to be Greater Manchester’s flagship scheme and first “fully filtered neighbourhood” and included work with six schools in Levenshulme and north Burnage [10]. Despite widespread local support for School Streets, there have been no permanent School Streets implemented in the scheme area.

On 15 June 2023, Clean Air Day, there will be a temporary School Street closure on Chapel St outside Chapel Street Primary School from 2.30 – 4pm, following a successful School Street trial on Clean Air Day 2022 [11]. The Clean Air Levenshulme group are calling for permanent School Streets for all schools where possible in Manchester enforced with ANPR cameras.

Ends 

Contact: Clean Air Levenshulme: 07940 006783

Manchester Friends of the Earth: 07951 642858

Notes

1. The results are from diffusion tube monitoring and provide a snapshot of the air pollution for the time and places that were monitored. They are not directly comparable to annual data, because over a year the weather varies considerably and level of air pollution with it, so the annual mean results could look different. The tubes were placed in locations during December 2022 and sent for analysis in a lab when removed. 

2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-health-england-publishes-air-pollution-evidence-review

3. https://www.cleanairhub.org.uk/take-action and https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-health-england-publishes-air-pollution-evidence-review

4.  https://cleanairgm.com/air-pollution#your-health

5. https://www.blf.org.uk/sites/default/files/TfGM%20clean%20air%20plan%20consultation%20response%20-2%20December%202020%20-%20FINAL%20.pdf

6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-64518593

7. https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/ulez-reduces-polluting-cars-by-13500-every-day

8. https://twitter.com/cleanairdayuk/status/1668553802037837830?s=20

9. Latest proposals: https://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200024/consultations_and_surveys/8303/levenshulme_and_burnage_low_traffic_neighbourhood_consultation_next_phase/3

10. https://levenshulmebeenetwork.commonplace.is/news and https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/news/2019/november/work-begins-on-manchester-s-first-filtered-neighbourhood and https://streetsforpeople.co.uk/2020/10/04/levy-school-streets-the-report-manchester-council-dont-want-you-to-see/11. https://twitter.com/MCC_Levenshulme/status/1666808030640640003?s=20

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