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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Inside Out returns to BBC One with the South East's surprising polluter

Inside Out returns to BBC One South East on Monday 12 October at 7.30pm with more topical stories and investigations from across the South East of England.

Forget road traffic and aeroplanes. In the first programme of this new series, Glenn Campbell reveals new figures that show thousands of people living in the South East could be at risk from shipping pollution.

More than 90% of the world's trade is moved by ships but, at any time, up to 1,300 ships can be passing through the English Channel – it is the busiest shipping lane in the world.

Those ships throw out pollution that can travel hundreds of miles on the prevailing wind. And particles from ferries, tankers and freighters can cause bronchial problems – especially for the elderly and the young.

With the help of Dover campaigner Les Richmond, Glenn hears about the perils of living alongside the busiest shipping lane in the world and how an invention by a Sussex company could help the industry to clean up its act.

Glenn also meets Dover resident Hazel Griggs, who moved to the town from the Midlands hoping the sea air would help her late husband – a chronic asthma sufferer.

But just a wipe of her window sills uncovers a film of black soot, the contents of which they believe would not have aided his condition.

Research from Denmark found that up to 1,000 people die prematurely every year in that country because of shipping pollution.

And American studies calculate 60,000 deaths every year for the same reason.

Kare Press-Kristensen, of the Danish Ecological Council, claims that those iconic plumes of smoke from funnels could be slowly claiming lives along the English Channel too: "If we transfer these results to the UK, we have the English Channel and a dense population with lots of ships going through there, so lots of deaths there on the other side of 10,000 at least."

MP for Brighton Kemptown, Des Turner, is convinced of the connection between the pollution from shipping and the development of chronic illness.

He believes more needs to be done to tackle these dirty ships: "Yes I do think people are dying. They are not dying immediately but they are developing chronic conditions and cancers which they may not have done. We are going to have to look at ways of excluding dirty ships from our ports."

The Scrubber, an invention by a Littlehampton-based company, could be the answer.

It strips the ships' emission of their harmful particles, which often include nickel and benzene, before they are released, storing them for later safe disposal.

And while some shipping companies are stepping up to the mark, testing systems like the Scrubber, is the industry as a whole taking responsibility?

Rob Ashdown of The Chamber of Shipping says the industry is studying the latest research to see what can be learned: "We are always looking at ways to improve our environmental impact. We are fully aware we have responsibilities to the society we serve and the environment."

But he adds: "Our members always meet or beat regulations and often go far beyond."

BBC South East's Inside Out returns to BBC One on Monday 12 October 2009 at 7.30pm or catch the episode again at bbc.co.uk/iplayer.

HB

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