Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. It is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer. Additionally, air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people, and those with heart and lung conditions. There is also often a strong correlation with equalities issues, because areas with poor air quality are also often the less affluent areas. The annual health cost to society of the impacts of particulate matter alone in the UK is estimated to be around £16 billion.
City of York Council has declared three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) where the health based national air quality objectives for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are currently exceeded. These AQMAs are located in the city centre, in Fulford and along Salisbury Terrace. City of York Council has a statutory duty to try to reduce NO2 concentrations within these AQMAs and additional obligations in relation to the protection of public health and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The main air pollutants of concern in York are NO2 and particulate matter (PM). Typically traffic is responsible for around 50-70% of the total NO2 at any particular location in the city, although the exact amount varies according to proximity to roads and other emission sources.
Recent air pollution monitoring data for York (2016) indicates that the annual average air quality objective for NO2 is still being breached at a number of locations around the inner ring road (within the city centre AQMA). Whilst average concentrations across the majority of technical breach areas increased marginally in 2016 compared with 2015, there is evidence of a steady downward trend in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over the last 7 years.
National air quality objectives for PM10 are currently met in York. Health based objective levels for ultra-fine particulates have not yet been set for local authorities to meet. The EU limit value for PM2.5 is 25µg/m3 as an annual average with an additional requirement to reduce average urban background concentrations by 15% by 2020 (against a 2010 baseline).