No data does not mean low data

February 9, 2021 11:07 AM
By Peter Dobbs

How often have we heard phrases like ' we have found no instances of such and such a problem in this area'? key_pollution

This may be true but begs the question - how hard were they looking?

A recent study from Harvard reported in the Guardian suggests that fossil fuels caused 8.7 million deaths worldwide in 2018 Almost 17% of all deaths of those over 14 in Europe were found to be attributable to one specific type of pollution produced by these fuels - fine particulate matter, usually classified by particle size .

This new research deploys a more detailed analysis of the impact of sooty airborne particles thrown out by power plants, cars, trucks and other sources (including wood burning stoves). This particulate matter is known as PM2.5 as the particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter - or about 30 times smaller than the diameter of the average human hair. These tiny specks of pollution, once inhaled, lodge in the lungs and can cause a variety of health problems.

In the Derbyshire Dales no actual measurements of PM2.5 levels are taking place.

Instead the Environment Agency are assuming that the only significant sources are major roads like the M1, A38 and A50 and are using mathematical modelling to 'guess' the levels where you and I live.

Local Lib Dem member and Ashbourne resident Peter Dobbs comments "If there is a key lesson to learn from existing air pollution measurements in the Dales, it is that you cannot assume that localised pollution hot spots do not exist without actually taking measurements in that location. The District Council have been measuring another pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, for many years and generally recording low values. However when they followed my suggestion and moved one of the sample points a few hundred metres they recorded massive values that were well in excess of the legal limit".

"People look at our wonderful countryside in the Dales and think that the air must be pollution free. It is a sobering thought that one of the most polluted stretches of road in the country is in a Dorset village - it just happens to be on a hilly part of a major trunk road."