Air pollution – euphemistically always called “air quality” by the government – is a massive public health issue, causing an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the UK every year with 9,500 in London alone.
That’s more than obesity or alcohol. The numbers dying vastly exceeds deaths from road traffic, murders such as stabbings, terrorist attacks and accidents such as fires combined.
Dirty air leads to worsening asthma symptoms, heart disease and even lung cancer. Air pollution has even been associated with changes in the brain linked to dementia and can lead to children growing up with smaller lungs.
Here is a short but punchy video from Friends of the Earth:
Heathrow is an air pollution black spot. Much is caused by surface transport to the airport. And commercial aircraft cannot be converted to run on electricity.
A third runway would bring more aircraft, passengers and freight. Any measures to clean up the air should happen now and reduce the impact of the existing traffic.
The courts have found twice, following cases brought by Client Earth, that the government has no tenable plan for bringing air pollution within legal limits. The judgments were reached without any assumption that Heathrow would be expanded and thereby increase air pollution levels (above the two runway scenario), making the government’s stance on air pollution even more shocking.
The public are taking air pollution seriously and at last so are some politicians, such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Heathrow is already the biggest single polluter in London, the UK and western Europe. With a third runway, the emissions from Heathrow will be much greater than with two runways. As passengers and aircraft movements will be about 50% higher with 3 runways than with two, the emissions will be proportionately greater. Concentrations of pollutants will be increased and/or high pollution levels will occur over a wider area.
This is self-evident but the Department for Transport has tried to hide the fact by slanting the evidenced and burying it in detailed dense reports. See the West London Friends of the Earth response to the November 2017 NPS consultation. This shows, among other things, that:
* Forecasts of air pollution are systematically under-estimated
* Impacts more than a few miles from Heathrow are ignored (plane and vehicles travel to and from Heathrow across the country)
* Only legally binding EU health limits are considered; these could repealed with Brexit.
* Actual impacts such as health, mortality, damage to structures and harm to ecosystems are ignored.
None of these issues have been addressed in the National Policy Statement (NPS) presented to Parliament. In its 93 pages, there is no information given to MPs about the actual increase in air pollution due to a new runway. This is misleading and deceitful.
So who is responsible for this misrepresentation to Parliament? Here.