Clean Air Zone ‘could save 50 lives yearly’

Thursday, 15th April 2021

AROUND 50 lives could be saved each year in Birmingham due to improvements in air quality through the Clean Air Zone, a report states.

But the analysis states the CAZ benefits in the city will be outstripped by other cities including Greater Manchester, where a CAZ is planned for the entire combined authority area.

An economic boost is also forecast with the city standing to see an extra £2.7 million added to its economy as a result of a healthier workforce.

But this is again less than the £7.1m estimated for Greater Manchester, where a CAZ is expected to be introduced in Spring 2022.

The study was published today (April 15) by CBI Economics and funded by philanthropic organisation the Clean Air Fund.

The study used estimates of the change in health outcomes attributable to a change in the concentration of air pollutants as well as factors including disease rates and population data.

It found Birmingham could prevent 24 to 52 deaths each year and save 150 days spent in hospital by patients due solely to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposure.

NO2 is a pollutant emitted by vehicles which is linked to asthma, stroke, cardiovascular disease and adverse birth outcomes.

Birmingham’s CAZ is projected to bring NO2 levels down to the statutory limit from levels which in 2019 exceeded the maximum allowed by 40 per cent as a result of the most polluted city centre locations.

The report states the introduction of a CAZ is also expected to contribute towards the city’s objective of a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2027.

Richard Butler, CBI West Midlands Director, said: “Cleaner air within our major cities is an aspiration not only central to improving public health, but also a business-critical issue for firms in Birmingham.

“Congested city streets are all too common a sight, slowing business operations and ultimately putting people’s health at risk. The loss of working hours in Birmingham alone runs into the hundreds of thousands.

“Building Back Better must have a green thread running through the very middle of it. That means working together towards reaching our net zero targets and making the most of the economic benefits from lowering air pollution in urban areas.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone is designed to address Birmingham’s air quality challenge.

“It will encourage the owners of all vehicle types that do not meet the emission standards to do something different such as upgrading or replacing their vehicle or making greater use of some of the alternatives such as walking and cycling.

“The Clean Air Zone also takes targeted action in an area of the city where there is a concentration of locations with nitrogen dioxide above the legal limit.

“To ensure we are doing everything we can, the council has recently published its Air Quality Action Plan which sets out an approach to identifying and tackling areas of poor air quality outside of the Clean Air Zone.”

Birmingham’s CAZ is due to be introduced on June 1 and will charge highly polluting cars, taxis and vans £8 per day, while HGVs, coaches and buses will be charged £50 per day.

Exemptions are available for those who live and/or work within the CAZ – with details available on the Brum Breathes website: www.brumbreathes.co.uk

Readers can check whether their car is compliant and therefore not eligible for a charge at: www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge