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Is this what particulate pollution looks like?

April 27, 2021 12:41 PM
By Peter Dobbs

Particulates collage (Peter Dobbs)

Particulates are bad news

From the junction between Buxton Road and St John's Street Ashbourne a black dust covers almost half of this road. It is clearly visible on the pavements and on the 'Covid safety' features that adorn our town.

What is it? It seems most likely that it is at least in part composed from the tiny particles worn from tyres as they are dragged around the tight corner. As many will have witnessed, rear wheels on an HGV do not roll around this corner but are dragged around due to the extreme radius.

Is it harmful? Probably. In 2019 the then Environment Minister Therese Coffey said "The documents published today make clear that it is not just fumes from car exhaust pipes that have a detrimental impact on human health but also the tiny particles that are released from their brakes and tyres."

Black dust on St Johns St (Peter Dobbs)

The Black Dust

How much are we breathing in? We have no idea. In the 'Detailed Assessment' commissioned by Derbyshire Dales District Council only computer modelling was used to 'predict' values for particulates in Ashbourne. However even these values were quite close to the WHO suggested limits. The UK limits are controversially 2.5 times higher than these - a situation that has attracted condemnation from the coroner investigating the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in South London.

Surely it is time to make some actual measurements of particulate levels on our busy streets? Undoubtedly it will be more difficult to measure than NOx but with St John's Street now part of an Air Quality Management Area it seems an entirely appropriate step to take to protect those living and working in this area.