Pollution worse inside cars

Scientists have found that car and taxi users are being exposed to air pollution levels inside their vehicles several times higher than those found along the roads they are driving on. The findings emerged from a study in which researchers at King’s College London equipped five MPs, all members of the environmental audit committee, with devices to measure airborne pollution levels plus a GPS unit to show where they got the highest doses. “Travelling in vehicles gave the greatest average exposure,” said Ben Barratt, a senior air quality scientist at King’s who oversaw the research. “Among the worst was when the MPs got a taxi across London.”

The Sunday Times ran this story.

This is a matter that has always interested me and this article confirms my own thoughts about the exposure of car drivers to pollution. I have got into the habit of shutting down my car’s heater/air intake when I spot a diesel vehicle in front of me. Sometimes on Bootle’s Dunningsbridge Road, for example, you can be surrounded by diesel belching lorries in a fog of fumes.

Sulphur limits for fuel used by ships in the Irish Sea

I have recently been raising the issue of pollutants from diesel engines and whilst the thrust of most concerns about such engines is associated with cars and lorries it has to be remembered that here on Merseyside we also have to consider the effects of pollutants from ships visiting the Mersey.

The Mersey - Looking from Bootle over the River to the Wirral

The Mersey – Looking from Bootle over the River to the Wirral

A local environmental campaigner of my acquaintance has been looking in detail at pollutants from ships and he took the matter up with the Government. Below is the text of a letter that details the present and future pollutant levels as they affect the Irish Sea. It makes for interesting reading and my thanks go to Peter Greener of Lydiate for digging into this sooty subject.


Pollutant emissions from ships are regulated by Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (commonly known as MARPOL), the latest, revised version of which was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in October 2008. The Government supports the limits in MARPOL Annex VI, which are designed to improve air quality and result in consequential benefits for public health and for the environment.

The current 1.0 per cent limit for sulphur in marine fuel in waters designated as Emission Control Areas (ECAs), will be replaced with a 0.10 per cent sulphur limit, which will apply from 1 January 2015. Within Europe, the only ECAs are the Baltic Sea and the North Sea (including the English Channel). In order to comply with the 0.10 per cent sulphur limit, ship owners can use low-sulphur fuel or an alternative compliance method, such as using an exhaust gas cleaning system or using an alternative fuel like liquefied natural gas (LNG). Outside the ECAs, the current 3.5 per cent sulphur limit for fuel will be replaced by a 0.5 per cent sulphur limit in 2020 unless the IMO’s review of fuel availability (which must be completed by 2018) indicates that sufficient compliant fuel would not be available, in which case the requirement may be deferred to 2025.

The sulphur provisions contained in MARPOL Annex VI are substantially mirrored in the EU Directive on sulphur content of marine fuels (amending Directive 2012/33/EU) which was adopted in 2012. The main differences with the European rules are that:

• The 0.5 per cent sulphur limit will apply to all ships in European waters operating outside the ECAs, including the Irish Sea, from 1 January 2020 (i.e. this limit will not be deferred until 2025);
• Since 2010, all ships at berth at a port in European waters, for more than 2 hours, have been required to use 0.1 per cent sulphur fuel (or equivalent); and
• Until 31 December 2019, passenger ships on regular services, operating in European waters outside of the ECAs, must use fuel which does not exceed 1.5 per cent sulphur. From 1 January 2020, the sulphur limit will decrease to 0.5 per cent (as it will for all ships in European waters operating outside the ECAs).
Under both MARPOL Annex VI and the EU Directive, there is a provision concerning the non-availability of compliant fuel. If a ship is found to be using non-compliant fuel and can demonstrate that no compliant fuel was available, then a State has discretion to take into account all relevant circumstances and the evidence presented to determine the appropriate action to take, including not taking control measures. In practice however, it is very unlikely that a ship operating outside an ECA will have any difficulty obtaining compliant 3.5 per cent sulphur fuel.
There is nothing to prevent a group of States applying to the IMO to have the adjoining sea to their shoreline designated as a sulphur ECA. When the UK was considering its application (along with all the other adjoining States) to have the North Sea designated as an ECA, the available evidence supported the case for adopting stricter sulphur limits in these waters. Due to the much lower traffic density and lower population density in the Irish Sea and northern UK waters, the Government considers there is less justification for designating these waters as an ECA. Submitting an application for a new ECA, or extending the existing North Sea sulphur ECA so that it encompasses all the seas around the UK would also need the support of the Irish Government.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

New pollution charges for diesel drivers?

Boris Johnson is considering plans to charge all diesel vehicle drivers an extra £10 to drive in central London while other cities across the country are looking urgently at ways to cut diesel fumes in order to comply with clean air rules from Europe. The EC launched legal proceedings against Britain in February for breaching air pollution limits. Defra has admitted that unless tougher action were taken London, Birmingham and Leeds would be exposed to dangerous air pollution from vehicle exhausts until the 2030s. London’s ‘ultra-low emission zone’ would also see petrol cars bought before 2006 charged the extra levy.

Picture c/o wikipedia

Picture c/o wikipedia

The Times & The Daily Telegraph carried this story recently.

This is an interesting environmental story because it is not so long ago that we were all in effect told that if we bought diesel powered cars it would reduce pollution. I was caught out by such bad advice and many other drivers were too. Now diesel powered vehicles are seen to be a pollution problem not a pollution solution.

I have posted before about air pollution in places like Bootle with ships and trucks going to and fro to the docks being a concern in addition to many private cars and vans being diesel powered. See link below:-


Air Quality Impact of Port Expansion – Seaforth, Liverpool

In response to concerns expressed by a number of environmental campaigners Sefton Council has recently produced a briefing note on this matter. You can read it below and my comments at the end.

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

This photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-


The Council is currently undertaking an exercise to review the air quality impacts of port expansion and this will examine the impact of different modes of transporting cargo. This process involves modelling the air quality impacts of the increases in vehicle, train and ship movements associated with port expansion using an air pollution dispersion model supported by increased monitoring in the study area. The modelling will be undertaken by Council Officers although independent consultants have been appointed to advise on the modelling process and critically appraise the outcomes. Officers are also working closely with the consultants appointed by the Highways Agency, to advise on the options for improving access to the port, to examine the air quality implications of each option.

The statutory Local Air Quality Management, Review and Assessment process, which involves 3 yearly Updating and Screening Assessments and annual Progress Reports will continue and this will entail an ongoing review of levels of key pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide, in line with Defra guidance.

With respect to ports, a Detailed Assessment for sulphur dioxide is only required for shipping using fuel with a sulphur content of greater than 1% and where there is residential exposure within 250m for ports with 5,000 – 15,000 ship movements per year or1km where there are more than 15,000 ship movements annually. The Harbour Master has confirmed that all vessels approaching the Port must not use marine fuel which has a sulphur content exceeding 0.10 %. There are no residential properties with 250m of the dock. When last reviewed the number of ship movements within the Sefton area of the port was below 15,000. The impact, and number, of ship movements is the subject of ongoing review under the Local Air Quality Management process, mentioned above, and will be modelled as part of the review of the impacts of port expansion. The impact of emissions from post Panamax vessels will be specifically considered.

The Council will be commissioning a health impact assessment of the port expansion that will incorporate the findings of the air quality study once complete. This will examine the impact on health of the port expansion as a whole including the increase in all types of cargo movements. Any significant health impact concerns arising from the assessment will then be considered for an appropriate approach to their mitigation.

The most significant source of air pollution locally is from road vehicle transport and the appropriate local measures to address sustainable transport and air pollution are delivered under the Liverpool City Region Local Transport Plan. The fourth Local Transport Plan is due to be published in April 2015 and the arrangements for stakeholder and public consultation have not been finalised yet. Those with concerns about transport related air pollution should take the opportunity to influence the development of this plan as it will determine how the available resources for sustainable transport are to be used for the next decade.

Port expansion and associated transport access is one of the stated strategic priorities of the Liverpool City Region Cabinet and Local Enterprise Partnership.


My view is that this is a huge environmental/health issue for the Bootle part of Sefton and along the transport corridors that carry goods to and from the docks at Seaforth. Getting the transportation links right is crucial but I fear there is too much going on behind the scenes about this. Little of any detail is available to the public and when I asked for such detail I was referred to a bland report produced in March this year which told me very little that I did not already know.

Expansion of Port of Liverpool – But what about the access?


The BBC has this latest story about the expansion of the Port of Liverpool but the big and very much unanswered question out there is what is to be done about transporting all the extra goods back and forth between the Port and the road and rail network.

This has been a big concern for many years as the A5036 from Switch Island to the Port clearly struggles for capacity now. Of course, the road is also a commuter route into Bootle and Liverpool so at times this regionally important access road, which is the only ‘A’ road in Sefton still under the control of the Highways Agency, is very congested.

Oddly, however, the rail link into Seaforth Container Terminal seems to be running well below its capacity with few trains using it to take containers to and from the Port. I am told this is associated with access charges to the rail terminal and the fact that it is more cost effective for rail freight to use the Garston rail facility in the south of Liverpool. Whatever the reason the effect of an underused rail container terminal at Seaforth Dock is that more containers are trucked to the Port via the already noted congested road network.

So, what is to happen when bigger ships carrying potentially vastly larger numbers of containers start to use the expanding facilities at the Port. The obvious answer is that unless the rail access and facilities are upgraded and become well used the impact will be far more trucks on Bootle’s roads. In fact, there will be more trucks on Bootle’s roads even if the rail terminal is brought up to and used to its capacity!

And associated with all this is the pollution from ships, diesel trucks and yes even diesel rail locomotives. This aspect should not be under estimated as Bootle already has much lower life expectancy levels than other parts of the Borough of Sefton.

This is a huge conundrum which Sefton Council, Peel Ports, The Highways Agency and Network Rail/rail freight operators have to address because if it is not successfully resolved the consequences will be:-

* Greater Pollution with all the health implication that brings
* More traffic congestion affecting everyone in the south of the Borough
* Bootle becoming a sea of container lorries 24 hours a day, 7 days per week

I will return to this subject in due course.