In May 1997 the Government produced the National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS). The strategy represents a comprehensive approach to maintaining and improving the quality of ambient air in the United Kingdom. In Breckland, as well as recording meteorological data, the monitoring station is equipped to monitor for: fine particles (PM10) oxides of nitrogen (NOx) ozone (O3) There is also an extensive network of diffusion tubes for NO2
Outlined in the strategy are the air quality objectives for the main pollutants the Government feels are of most concern at present and the dates it feels these targets should be met. These pollutants are:
PM10 describes the fraction of airborne particulate matter that is less than 10 microns in size (<10 µm). Fine particles are of the greatest concern since they are capable of being easily transported over long distances on currents of air. Also, fine particles may be drawn into the respiratory airways where they may adversely affect health. Recently, the attention of scientists has been drawn towards studying the PM2.5 fraction and even smaller particles, which can penetrate the very deepest parts of the lung.
PM10 and other particulate matter may vary considerably in chemical and physical composition. The principal sources of these particles are combustion processes, including traffic and industry.
Fine particles can be carried deep into the lungs where they can cause inflammation and a worsening of the condition of people with heart and lung diseases. In addition, they may carry surface-absorbed carcinogenic compounds into the lungs.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Nitrogen dioxide is one of a number of nitrogen oxides, which are formed during high temperature combustion processes. Road traffic is the main source, accounting for approximately 50% of all European emissions. Therefore, concentrations tend to be highest in urban environments with high traffic levels. Large industrial sources can also have a significant impact.
Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant and also plays a part in the production of another atmospheric pollutant, Ozone. Nitrogen oxides remain in the atmosphere for approximately one day before they are oxidised to nitric acid. Nitrogen oxides are therefore a contributory factor in the production of acid rain.
Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. Continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.
Ozone is a very reactive chemical, which is potentially toxic to both plants and animals. In the stratosphere, ozone helps to protect the earth from the harmful effects of ultra-violet rays from the sun. However at ground level it is a pollutant. Unlike the other pollutants mentioned above, ozone is not emitted directly. Rather, it is formed as a result of a complex series of reactions involving hydrocarbons, sunlight and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The involvement of sunlight in this process means that ozone levels tend to be highest in summer. The reactions take time to generate ozone and the highest concentrations are frequently experienced many miles away from the source of the pollution, perhaps in rural areas. In fact, a significant proportion of ozone incidents experienced in the UK are due to pollution imported from abroad. The problem of ozone pollution can therefore only be adequately dealt with as a result of international agreements.
Ozone irritates the airways of the lungs, increasing the symptoms of those suffering from asthma and lung diseases.
Benzene and 1,3 butadiene
Benzene is a VOC (volatile organic compound) which is a minor constituent of petrol. The main sources of benzene in the atmosphere in Europe are the distribution and combustion of petrol. Of these, combustion by petrol vehicles is the single biggest source (70% of total emissions). 1,3-butadiene, like benzene, is a VOC emitted into the atmosphere principally from fuel combustion of petrol and diesel vehicles. 1,3-butadiene is also an important chemical in certain industrial processes, particularly the manufacture of synthetic rubber.
Possible chronic health effects include cancer, central nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, reproductive disorders, and birth defects.
Further information can be found by following the link to the UK National Air Quality Information Archive.
Local Air Quality Management (LAQM)
We are required to carry out regular reviews and assessments of air quality in our area against standards and objectives prescribed in regulations for the purpose of Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) before undertaking Action Planning if air quality is found to breach the regulations.
Summary of previous review and assessments carried out by Breckland Council
Exceedance of the objective for PM10 at East Wretham Heath SSSI
Declaration of an Air Quality Management Area for PM10 at East Wretham Heath SSSI in 2005. See Appendix 1
No exceedances of any objectives likely and no more than the permitted number of exceedances for AQMA (PM10) 2005/06
No exceedances of any objectives likely.
Exceedance of annual objective for NO2 at London Street, Swaffham.
No exceedances of any objectives likely. It is noted that NO2 in London Street, Swaffham is close to the annual objective
No exceedance of any objectives likely. It is noted that NO2 in London Street, Swaffham is close to the annual objective
Exceedence of the annual objective for NO2 in Swaffham was reported and the intention to submit a Detailed Assessment for this was stated.
The AQMA declared in 2005 for PM10 was revoked in 2011
Exceedence for nitrogen dioxide and therefore concluded that a Detailed Assessment should be produced for Swaffham.
Bureau Veritas employed to carry out a Detailed Assessment for Swaffham. Concluded no AQMA as exceedence small but to continue monitoring to assess effects of proposed developments.
No exceedances of any objectives likely. It is noted that NO2 in London Street, Swaffham is close to the annual objective, and monitoring will continue.
Exceedence for nitrogen dioxide identified at Swaffham. Defra recommend if "exceedences continue in 2014, Breckland should consider whether they need to revisit the 2012 detailed assessment". Monitoring will continue and the 2015 Report (2014 data) will be produced in April 2015.
Exceedence for nitrogen dioxide identified at Swaffham. The Council will proceed to a Detailed Assessment which includes a traffic options feasibility study. Monitoring will continue and the 2016 Progress Report (2015 data) and a Detailed Assessment will be produced in April 2016.
We currently have a district wide nitrogen dioxide (NO2) network of over 20 NO2 diffusion tubes and two continuous analysers. Diffusion tubes give us monthly averages and the continuous analysers give us hourly average information. These figures, and the locations of the tubes and analysers, are used to produce the reports in the list above.
Breckland and Norfolk Air Quality
Please follow link for information and maps regarding Breckland and Norfolk air quality.
This shows the automatic monitoring information for Swaffham and East Wretham in the Breckland District. You can also see the rest of the County for comparison.
A new system of assessing air quality was introduced by The Environment Act 1995. The Government has produced a National Air Quality Strategy and set objectives for seven pollutants:
fine particles (PM10)
Local Authorities have a duty to review and assess the levels of these pollutants in their areas, and predict whether national action is sufficient to bring about compliance with the objectives.
Where a failure is envisaged, the area concerned is to be declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).