The East Midland cities living under a cloud of air pollution. Inside Out investigates the damage to children's health. And new hope for people living with Tourette's Syndrome.
Air pollution concerns
A BBC Inside Out investigation has found that the concentration of nitrogen dioxide outside of a primary school in Leicester is above recommended levels set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
BBC Inside Out East Midlands and a team of researchers from the University of Leicester installed a computer outside Shenton Primary School in Leicester which conducted an experiment to measure the nitrogen dioxide levels emitted from the passing traffic on a nearby road.
The research found that the concentration of nitrogen dioxide outside the school, during peak hours, was above the levels that the WHO specifically lists as damaging to humans.
According to a recent study, Leicester has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in England, with Nottingham recording the second highest. Both cities have some of the highest levels in Europe – putting them 9th and 11th in a table of European cities (Source: European Environment Agency).
The University of Leicester operates one of the most advanced atmospheric chemistry laboratories in the country. The team there were responsible for monitoring air pollution at the London Olympics this summer. Professor Paul Monks runs the department and is a Chief Advisor to the Government on air quality. He says the problem is the design of cities such as Leicester.
He says: “Many of the cities in the Midlands expanded during the Victorian era with the suburbs round the edges and businesses and shops in the middle. That means at certain times of day you’re funnelling traffic into the centre of these cities which leads you to form a pollution hot spot.”
The health risks of inhaling this gas aren’t fully understood – but it is claimed that even in healthy people, just 30 minutes of exposure irritates the lungs and throat, with it causing real problems for people with respiratory conditions like asthma.
The reasons for the increase in nitrogen dioxide levels could be down to the increase in the number of diesel powered vehicles on the roads in the last 10 years.
Dr James Tate, from the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, has been looking at the problem of the increasing levels of nitrogen dioxide and trying to work out why the levels of this gas have failed to come down, despite the millions of pounds spent by car manufacturers to meet EU emission standards.
He says: “Modern diesel vehicles have been fitted with a particle filter to strip out most of the particles that are coming out of the engine. It’s been doing quite a good job at that, but a kind of by-product of this whole emission control system is that levels of Nitrogen Dioxide out of the tail pipe have been actually increasing.”
Leicester City Council are aware of the problem and in Leicester they use monitoring stations, dotted across the city, to compile information and submit it - along with a yearly action plan of improvements - to the Government.
Councillor Rory Palmer, from Leicester City Council, says: “There’s different ways of looking at this data and if you look at some of the data we’ve captured, it may challenge some of the data that we see from other sources. I don’t deny that there’s a challenge here, but it’s a challenge we are determined to address.”
He adds: “If we want to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide, we have to see big improvements in the emissions from vehicles, or reduce the amount of traffic on our roads – and that’s something we are trying to do as well.”
Air pollution fears in Leicester and Nottingham
Two of the Midlands' biggest cities are breathing in record quantities of nitrogen dioxide.
According to a recent study, Leicester has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in England, with Nottingham recording the second highest.
Watch a video feature from the programme.
New hope for Tourette's Syndrome patients
Young people with Tourette's Syndrome have been given new hope as a result of pioneering work by scientists at the University of Nottingham.
Professor Stephen Jackson and his team are building a 'brain atlas' to map the neurological development of people with Tourette's and help to suggest treatments.
Inside Out talks to Hannah Prentice from Birmingham and Spencer Forbes from Nottinghamshire who have volunteered to take part in the study.
Watch the video feature on the BBC News website.
|Series Editor||Tony Roe|