WITH an estimated 146 deaths a year in Cheshire West caused by particulates, the council is eager to clean up the air we breathe.

Councillors from Northwich and Winsford were given the eye-opening details of how poor air quality can affect the public at a meeting on Wednesday night – and how the local authority is keeping on top of it.

Members were told how two pollutants are monitored – nitrous dioxide and particulates – with the latter being particularly harmful to health.

Figures from Public Health England estimate 29,000 deaths a year caused by particulates – with 3,427 of those in the north west, including 146 in Cheshire West.

Councillors heard how poor air quality can cause health problems – potentially affecting the heart, chest and lungs, while even some cases of stroke are linked to harmful pollutants.

Cheshire West and Chester Council currently monitors NO2 at 11 locations across mid Cheshire – but it only has three monitoring stations for particulates in Ellesmere Port and Frodsham.

“If there were 146 people being killed by terrorists you would expect the resources would be put in to deal with that,” said Cllr Elton Watson, Conservative CWAC member for Davenham, Moulton and Kingsmead.

Northwich Guardian:

“I would suggest that maybe some more resource should go into monitoring air quality across the borough.”

But Martin Doyle, environmental protection officer, moved to reassure councillors that the air quality data CWAC has is ‘robust’ – and that resources are better spent trying to improve air quality, rather than simply monitor it.

“You can monitor until the cows come home at the end of the day,” he said.

“We know the causes of poor air quality – we know it is traffic primarily, we know it is congestion, and we know it is highly-emitting vehicles.

“You want to do what you can to focus on the solution rather than just focus on quantifying the problems.”

One of the biggest challenges CWAC wants to conquer is finding a way to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the borough’s roads – by improving take-up of electric cars and encouraging residents to use public transport.

Cllr Bob Cernik, Labour member for Winnington and Castle, said: “The thing that puts people off [electric cars] is that there aren’t charging points everywhere.

Northwich Guardian:

“We need funding from central Government to increase that.

“The other thing is that we need a much better public transportation system. With privatised buses the way they currently are, they operate how they want to operate.

“If we get [devolution] we can dictate to a far greater extent the type of transportation that we can have – hydrogen-powered buses for example.”

Congestion is also a key issue for residents and councillors where youngsters walk to school at peak times.

Cllr Patricia Parkes, Conservative CWAC member for Hartford and Greenbank, said: “In Hartford we have got what I consider to be quite severe [poor air quality] for our children walking to school. It can be up to a mile, which is a long time each day.”

Northwich Guardian:

Mr Doyle suggested that it is ‘highly, highly unlikely’ that nitrous dioxide would cause problems for children walking to school and back as there is nowhere in the borough where the level exceeds the dangerous level 60 micrograms.

He added: “If you have got a stretch of road where kids walk along going to school – I’ve got two that dawdle a lot, and it still shouldn’t take them an hour to get along that stretch of road.”

Mr Doyle explained that main causes for concern with nitrous dioxide involve prolonged periods of exposure – at least an hour – to excessive levels of the pollutant.

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However, he suggested that you cannot say the level of particulates would not do walkers harm, because there can still be ‘detrimental health effects’ at lower levels.

The latest figures on nitrous dioxide levels recorded across Northwich and Winsford in 2019 are due to be published by the end of March.