Below legal limit, but still concerns over air pollution

Members of Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth installing diffusion tubes. Picture by Cathy Crowther.
Members of Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth installing diffusion tubes. Picture by Cathy Crowther.

An investigation by Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth in the town has revealed potentially concerning levels of air pollution.

The group monitored levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO²) in 10 sites across the town for three weeks in June and July.

NO² is a toxic gas which inflames the lining of the lungs. The legal annual limit is 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) and while the figures fell below this legal limit, some were in the 30µg/m³ range.

This suggests that there may be cause for concern as readings by major roads in Alnwick, such as the A1 roundabout, are close to unacceptable levels and are likely to rise further if the town gets busier with more traffic. 

The group plans to share its findings with the town and county councils and hopes to discuss how traffic can be better dealt with in the town, suggesting measures such as better cycle and walking routes, an extension to the town’s bus service, more pedestrian priority in some streets, seasonal park-and-ride schemes for tourists, more electric car-charging points and a tree-planting programme to help filter the air we breathe.

The group’s Lisa Bellamy said: “There are no safe levels of exposure to air pollution. Our results suggest that the people of Alnwick could, at some times of the day and year, be exposed to illegal limits of air pollution. We know road traffic is the biggest problem – and diesel vehicles are the worst of all.”

She added: “Increasing numbers of car journeys can be taken on one level as a measure of success for a thriving community, but could also be a failure, if pollution leads to health problems such as asthma and heart disease for its citizens.”