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Dudley Council the historic capital of the Black Country
Dudley Skyline

Dudley’s air quality has improved dramatically since the 1950s when ‘clean air’ legislation was introduced to prevent air pollution episodes created by heavy industry and from the burning of coal. However, air pollution is still an issue today and poor air quality can affect health and everyday quality of life.

Nowadays the main sources of pollution in Dudley are emissions from road transport (including lorries, buses and cars). Petrol and diesel motor vehicles emit a wide variety of pollutants, principally carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulates (PM10), which have an increasing impact on urban air quality. High levels of pollution tend to be associated with busy main roads and junctions.

Under the Clean Air Act 1993, it is an offence to cause or permit emissions of 'dark smoke' from industrial or trade premises (includes building & demolition). Burning can be deemed to have taken place (without witnessing a bonfire) if the materials that have been burnt on the premises are likely to give rise to dark smoke, e.g. cable, paint, etc. Cable burning is also a specific offence unless authorised. 

The Clean Air Act 1993 also enables local authorities to declare any part of their district as a Smoke Control Area.

The UK national air quality strategy (NAQS)

The UK National Air Quality Strategy aims to ensure that air quality in public spaces poses no significant risk to human health and quality of life.

To implement the strategy we review and assess air quality and produces daily and annual air quality reports. If in any area air quality fails to meet national pollution objectives we are legally obliged to declare "Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)" and to develop, in partnership with local communities, "Action Plans", for each area, to improve air quality.

The Strategy

The Air Quality Strategy intends to provide a clear framework for improving air quality through:

  • a clear and simple policy framework;
  • realistic but challenging objectives;
  • regulation and financial incentives to help achieve the objectives;
  • analysis of costs and benefits;
  • monitoring and research to increase our understanding;
  • information to raise public awareness.

The Air Quality Strategy proposals aim to protect health and the environment without imposing unacceptable economic or social costs. They form an essential part of the Government's strategy for sustainable development, which has four main aims:

  • social progress which meets the needs of everyone;
  • effective protection of the environment;
  • prudent use of natural resources; and ;
  • maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.

The fundamental aim of the Government is to render polluting emissions harmless. It is necessary, therefore, to firstly define a level of harmlessness, and then to establish a policy towards the achievement of the levels by means of objectives as costs and benefits dictate.

Monitoring air quality

We have been monitoring and improving urban air quality since the introduction of the Environment Act (1995) and has instigated a number of projects to reduce pollution and protect residents and visitors to the area. We have our own ‘Air Quality Action Plan’.

To see today's air pollution view the UK National Air Quality website

Air Quality Mapping

Key pollutants

Ongoing review and assessment of air quality within Dudley has indicated that concentrations of lead, sulphur dioxide, PM10, benzene, 1, 3 -butadiene and carbon monoxide all meet the present government objectives. However, exceedences of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective of 40µg/m3 have been detected at numerous locations, mainly due to high volume, slow moving traffic.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen Dioxide is formed through the high temperature burning of fuel, principally from road traffic. This means that concentrations are greatest in urban areas where traffic levels are the highest. Other significant sources are power plants, heating plants and industrial processes.

Nitrogen dioxide can potentially impact on health by irritating the lungs and lowering resistance to respiratory infections. It can also lead to ozone formation by reacting with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in sunlight – ozone can irritate the airways of the lungs and impair lung function.

There are also environmental consequences of nitrogen dioxide formation. Acid deposition can occur as a result of the conversion of nitrogen dioxide to nitric acid in the atmosphere, which then falls to the ground as "acid rain" or a dry deposit for instance. Acid rain can cause damage to forests and freshwater lakes. Because nitrogen dioxide has a role in ground level ozone formation, it indirectly contributes to the effects of ozone pollution, which include a reduction in crop yields and damage to trees.

Particulate Matter (PM10)

Particulate matter refers to very small solid and liquid particles present in the atmosphere. The principal source of particulate matter in the UK is road traffic emissions, from petrol and diesel engines. Particulates are also released as a result of industrial processes and have natural sources such as dust storms and volcanoes.

PM10 refers to fine particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres (µm). These particles are of particular concern for health as they can be carried deep into the lungs where they can cause inflammation and worsening of lung and heart conditions. They can thicken blood and lead to an increased risk of strokes. Particulates may also carry surface-absorbed carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds into the lungs.

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

Sulphur dioxide is an acidic gas which combines with water vapour in the atmosphere to produce acid rain. The principal source of sulphur dioxide is power stations burning fossil fuels containing sulphur. Significant problems now only tend to occur in cities where coal is still widely used in domestic heating, industry and power stations. Thus, sulphur dioxide pollution is not a major problem in most cities in the UK.

Health effects of sulphur dioxide occur very quickly and can include a reduction in lung function in asthmatics, while tightness of the chest and coughing occur at high levels.

Both dry deposition and wet deposition as sulphuric acid ("acid rain") have environmental effects. Such effects include freshwater acidification, damage and destruction of vegetation, degradation of soils and damage to historic monuments and buildings.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is formed when fuels containing carbon are burned without enough oxygen present, or when they are burned at too high a temperature. It is produced almost entirely from road traffic emissions in European urban areas.

By preventing the normal transport of oxygen to the blood, carbon monoxide leads to reduction in the supply of oxygen to the heart, particularly in people suffering from heart disease.

Lead

Sources of lead include fossil fuel combustion, metal processing industries, waste incineration and the manufacture of batteries. Lead was also used as an additive in petrol but increased use of unleaded petrol has meant a decline in recent years.

Lead can be harmful in small amounts, especially to young children and infants. Exposure to lead has been associated with impaired mental function and neurological damage in children.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile Organic Compounds are organic chemicals that easily vaporise at room temperature. The group of VOCs known as hydrocarbons include benzene and 1,3-butadiene. The main sources of benzene in Europe are the distribution and combustion of petrol. The principal source of 1,3-butadiene is from fuel combustion of petrol and diesel vehicles, and a further source is industrial processes such as the manufacture of synthetic rubber.

Some VOCs can be quite harmful to human health, potentially contributing to central nervous system disorders, kidney damage, reproductive disorders and birth defects. Both benzene and 1,3-butadiene are known carcinogens (cancer causing agents).

Ground level Ozone (O3)

In the upper atmosphere or stratosphere, the presence of ozone is necessary in order to protect the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. However, at ground level (in the troposphere), ozone can have harmful effects on both humans and the environment. Ozone can irritate the airways of the lungs and impair lung function, and asthmatics may be more sensitive to such effects. Vegetation effects include a reduction in crop yields and damage to trees.

Ozone is a secondary pollutant formed in the presence of sunlight by the reaction of VOCs such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene with nitrogen oxides (nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide). People indirectly influence ozone levels through fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes and solvent usage for instance. Traffic emissions of nitrogen dioxide and VOCs will also indirectly influence ozone levels.

Advice or complaints about Air quality

Please use our online form to request advice or make a complaint

Air Pollution, Smoke, Fumes, Dust, Odour Complaints and Requests for Advice (Including Bonfires and Smoke from Chimneys).

Vehicle air pollution - smoky vehicles

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations govern the standards to which new motor vehicles must be manufactured, including standards for exhaust emissions. 

Idling vehicles

An idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion. Exhaust emissions contain a range of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter. These can effect the air quality of the surrounding environment and the air we breathe.

Pollen

All plants and trees give off pollen and the seasons vary during the year depending on the species. Most people are affected by grass pollen and this is typically a problem during June and July.

Hay Fever

If you suffer with hay fever it is important for you to know how much pollen is in the air so you can make arrangements to minimise the impact. You may be allergic to one or to several types of pollen with grass pollen being the most frequent cause – about 90 per cent of all sufferers.

Other pollen allergens include those from trees such as birch, alder and hazel and weeds such as docks and nettles.

How to help yourself

If you regularly check the pollen forecast then there are two main ways to minimise the symptoms of hay fever:

  • avoid the allergens
  • control with medication such as antihistamines and corticosteroids

A few handy hints

  • if possible avoid going out at peak pollen times usually the morning from 7am to 10 am and late afternoon 4pm to 7pm
  • change clothes and wash hair etc after being out
  • avoid drying washing outside on high pollen count days
  • cover bed and desks when not in use and carefully remove covers when you want to use the area
  • wear sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat
  • Brush or wash your pets to rid their fur of pollen
  • Drive with the windows closed, service your car air filter regularly where possible drive a car with a good pollen filter
  • talk to you GP or pharmacist about treatments and remedies
  • for some respite, close the windows and doors of a room. Sit still and in about 25 minutes most of the pollen in the room will have settled so you will be breathing pollen free air

Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers are very similar to conventional gas boilers, providing heating and hot water for the entire home, but instead of using gas (or oil) to produce the heat, they combust sustainably sourced wood pellets.

Bonfires

It's illegal to dispose of commercial waste in a commercial bonfire, and you should consider energy efficiency and recycling waste. However, householders may have garden bonfires but you should consider recycling your waste. 

Chimney height approval

Dudley is within a smoke control area therefore all combustion appliances must burn either a smokeless fuel or the appliance itself must be an exempt appliance as defined by the Clean Air Act 1993. 

Smoke control order enforcement

Smoke from chimneys is generally controlled by Smoke Control Orders, which restrict the types of fuels and fireplaces so that visible smoke is not persistently emitted from the chimney. This is commonly referred to as a "smokeless zone".

Planning and Air Quality

Local planning decisions have significant potential to affect local air quality in many ways including:

  • Increased vehicle emissions from additional vehicle trips associated with the development and the creation of traffic flow impacts

  • Location and design of industrial emissions sources

  • Location of residential premises 

The National Planning Policy Framework requires developers to take into account local authority air quality needs and low emission strategies. Whilst planning policy cannot solve immediate air quality issues it clearly has a role to play so that any likely development scheme impacts are reasonably mitigated and future scheme occupants are able to make green travel choices. The West Midlands local authorities led by Dudley Council have produced as part of the Low Emissions Towns and Cities Project, the Good Practice Air Quality Guidance which sets out a simplified approach to dealing with air quality within the planning system. The document can be accessed via the link below:

https://go.walsall.gov.uk/Portals/0/Uploads/PollutionControl/letc_good_practice_air_quality_planning_guidance_may_2014.pdf

The guidance seeks to minimise road transport emissions associated with development and to counter the cumulative impacts from the aggregation of incremental emissions arising from each development scheme. The document provides a classification scheme for development and lists mitigation measures which should be associated with each class of development. 

Details on the standards for air quality can be found using the link below:

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Air Quality

Air Quality Steering Group

Dudley Council have recently set up an air quality steering group comprising planning, transport and air quality officers; the group have been tasked with developing effective policies that will integrate local air quality issues into land use and transport planning. They will meet on a regular basis to discuss how these policies can be amended and applied to resolve problematic situations and improve air quality or minimise receptor exposure.

Kids and air quality information

These pages provide a wealth of information suitable for all backgrounds and ages on air quality. It is designed for children and local schools interested in air quality and environmental issues.

New Funding to Encourage Plug-In Car Use (UK)

The plug-in car grant scheme began in 2011, over 40,000 claims have been made and there are now a wide range of vehicles eligible for the grant. £200 million has been made available to continue the plug-in car grant from 2015 to 2020. The technology in the vehicles, and number of models available, has developed considerably since the technical requirements for the scheme were set, almost 5 years ago.
On 26 August 2015 the government announced that it would continue to provide current levels of support under the plug-in car grant cap.
The announcement confirmed that the plug in car grant will continue for all categories of qualifying ultra low emission vehicle.  The grant is currently £4,500 although this may decrease in time.
The Domestic chargepoint scheme will also continued to run until the budget is exhausted. Private plug-in vehicle drivers can offset some of the upfront cost of the purchase and installation of a dedicated domestic recharging unit. Customers who are the registered keeper, lessee or have primary use of an eligible electric vehicle may receive up to 75% (capped at £700, inc VAT) off the total capital costs of the chargepoint and associated installation costs.

Review and Assessment

Since 1997 local authorities in the UK have been carrying out Air Quality Review And Assessment of air quality in their area. The aim of the review is to make sure that the national air quality objectives will be achieved. If a local authority finds any locations where the objectives are not likely to be achieved, it must declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).