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Latest News  >  Air Quality improves for most of Greater Manchester

Air quality measurements taken at sites away from busy roads show there has been a gradual improvement in pollution concentrations over the last 10 years. However, there has been no improvement close to busy roads.

Air quality monitoring has been carried out by the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester for several years, this includes a network of "real-time" monitoring stations, which take measurements of pollutants, which can affect the health of people living and working in the area. The pollutant of most concern for health in Greater Manchester is nitrogen dioxide, which lead to the declaration of an Air Quality Management Area covering areas where health-based objectives were unlikely to be met.

The graph below shows the annual average pollution concentrations from monitoring sites close to busy roads and at background sites away from busy roads.

Pollution concentrations away from busy roads have gradually been reducing. At roadside sites, however, no such reduction has taken place. Current and historical air quality monitoring results for all the sites in Greater Manchester are now available.

The reasons for the trends are complex, but it is thought that it may be linked to changes in technology. Road traffic is the major source of nitrogen dioxide in urban areas. Vehicle exhausts emit both nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO), these are collectively known as nitrogen oxides (NOx). Nitrogen dioxide affects health, but nitric oxide does not. When nitric oxide is released into the atmosphere it reacts with ozone to form nitrogen dioxide, as this reaction does not always take place immediately this can lead to concentrations of nitrogen dioxide away from the initial source of the pollution. It is thought that increases in the number of diesel vehicles, particularly those fitted with oxidation catalysts, may be the reason for the changes as that type of vehicle releases a higher proportion of primary nitrogen dioxide than other types of vehicles (reference). They do however have other air quality benefits in reducing emissions of particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

The improvement in background pollution concentrations is encouraging, but much remains to be done to improve concentrations at the roadside. Everyone living and working in Greater Manchester can contribute to improving air quality, from replacing short journeys with walking or cycling to using smarter driving techniques like accelerating and braking less harshly. Why not look at the what can you do? pages of the website for tips on action you can take to improve pollution.


Updated: 26/08/2009










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