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Clean Air Zone Scheme Reduces Air Pollution in Birmingham

Clean Air Zone Scheme Reduces Air Pollution in Birmingham
04 September 2023

A Clean Air Zone in Birmingham has successfully reduced the levels of nitrogen dioxide gas in the city.

Nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) is an air pollutant which adversely affects people’s health by damaging the respiratory airways.

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone was introduced in 2021, discouraging the most polluting vehicles from entering the city centre, vehicles that do not meet the emission standards for the zone are subject to a daily fee. London’s answer to Clean Air Zone, ULEZ, has recently been expanded to cover all London boroughs.


Modest But Significant Reductions in Nitrogen Dioxide Gas


University of Birmingham scientists have reported that that during the Clean Air Zone’s first seven months of operation resulted in “modest, but significant” reductions in NO2 of up to 7.3 per cent.  The biggest reductions in NO2 are at busy roadside locations. Interestingly, the team also found reductions in NOlevels on roads outside the Clean Air Zone, suggesting that rather than displacing traffic to areas outside the zone, there could be positive effects, such as behavioural changes that contribute to reduced air pollution in surrounding areas, beyond the area of the zone itself.

The work is funded by Natural Environment Research Council and supported by Research England under the Policy Support funding stream, and is part of the WM-Air project. The study provides a blueprint for cities across the UK and beyond to analyse the effectiveness of their own clean air interventions.

Professor Zongbo Shi, a Senior Author who oversaw this work, said: “PM2.5 at monitoring sites in Birmingham still regularly exceed WHO air quality guideline levels, at which health impacts occur with significant health implications, including hundreds of premature deaths every year. More rigorous policy interventions - such as further local measures to reduce wood burning and agricultural emissions and nationally co-ordinated actions to mitigate secondary PM2.5 pollution - are needed to address non-vehicle sources of PM2.5 as quickly as possible.

"Air pollution is one of the largest risks to the health of urban populations, with short- and long-term exposure shown to increase the risk of acute and chronic disease outcomes and reduce life expectancy. Improving air quality reduces healthcare costs, including to the NHS, and boosts economic productivity with lower levels of pollution-related illness.”

Picture: a photograph of the exterior of the Bull Ring building. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 04 September 2023


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