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BRUM ON RED ALERT FOR AIR POLLUTION; City is a hotspot of smog.

Byline: BY FIONNUALA BOURKE

BIRMINGHAM has been named the worst air pollution hotspot in the UK.

The city has the highest levels of PM10 fine particles - the biggest single killer in polluted air - which are mainly derived from vehicle exhausts.

The pollution can cause respiratory disease and asthma attacks, and has claimed up to 8,000 lives each year across the nation.

Latest figures from the National Environmental Technology Centre (NETCEN) reveal that Birmingham has higher PM10 levels than even parts of traffic-congested London. In 2003, the independent pollution monitoring group recorded nearly 30 microgrammes per cubic metre of the pollutants in the city - compared to just over 28 in the capital and 24 in Manchester

By 2010, the Government wants the levels to be scaled back to a maximum of 20 in Birmingham and 23 in London.

Poor air quality can worsen symptoms of respiratory disease and heart conditions.

The Department of Health has estimated that pollution has caused around 8,100 deaths in the UK in one year - with 1,620 of them believed to be in the Midlands.

They also reckon it accounted for 10,500 hospital admissions for respiratory problems, including around 2,100 in the region.

The European Union has issued strict limits on particulate matter, and other pollutants, to restrict the damage caused to the atmosphere.

Yet during 2003, Birmingham exceeded the European PM10 pollution limits 49 times - when only 35 annual breaches are permitted by the EU. Friends of the Earth recently called for the European Commissioner to prosecute the Government when it was revealed that the air quality limits were flouted on London's Marylebone Road.

A pollution station at the site in the capital recorded 36 breaches of PM10 particles for just the first five months of 2005.

Wolverhampton South West MP, Rob Marris, has expressed his concern about the alarming increase in traffic over the last 25 years and the corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

'Road traffic has grown by a worrying 83 per cent and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 50 per cent over the same period,' he said.

'These emissions account for at least 18 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions and the trend continues upwards.'

Mr Marris has now signed an Early Day Motion with other parliamentary colleagues, calling for the Government to take action Gavin Tringham, head of public health for Birmingham City Council, said that his authority was already taking steps to reduce the pollution levels. 'The council has now made special arrangements to monitor PM10 across the city more closely,' he said. 'We are also seeking to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads and improve public transport to combat this. The weather can also have a great effect on air pollution. The warmer it is, the higher PM10 levels can be.'

The city's main pollution monitoring station is on Stratford Road in Sparkbrook. But Mr Tringham said that Birmingham as a whole was not now in breach of European pollution levels.

He added: 'A review we conducted in 2000 identified certain parts of Birmingham which have poorer air quality than others. These are mainly situated around the city centre, the Aston Expressway, bits of Selly Oak and the Stratford Road.

'The pollution identified in these areas was mostly caused by the density of traffic

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POISONOUS: The UK's worst air pollution hotspots are marked in red - with one patch over the West Midlands
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 5, 2005
Words:575
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