Last week’s poll: reducing ill-health from air pollution

Engineer readers show a diversity of opinion over how to reduce the health impact of air pollution

air pollution

There was no consensus among the 351 readers who responded to last week’s poll. The largest single group of respondents, 37 per cent, opted for removing the most polluting vehicles from the roads, although as one reader pointed out, there was an ambiguity in the phrasing of the option meaning it wasn’t clear whether we were referring to removing the vehicles with the worst emission performance, or removing the majority of polluting vehicles (the intention was to refer to the former).

The next largest group, 28 per cent, thought that improving infrastructure for cycling and public transport would have the biggest effect, while 21 per cent opted for a focus on cleaning up particulates. The smallest group, five per cent, thought that reorganising freight delivery times would have the biggest effect, while nine per cent declined to pick an option.

The feedback section was lively, with 29 comments. Among these were the usual smattering of denialists insisting that claims of health effects on poor air quality were overblown.

Among those submitting constructive comments, Michael Morley agreed with the IMechE’s conclusion that air quality inside train stations was a concern. “I came to the conclusion some time ago that a train that could change to electric whilst around the stations would be the best solution,” he said.

Ian Downie suggested that the size of exhaust pipes might be contributing to the problem. “The worst polluters are the heaviest vehicles (lorries and trains), but I don’t think their exhaust pipes are in proportion to their size (they are smaller). Better exhaust pipes would go a long way to fixing the issue,” he commented.

David Scates noted “I voted for removing the most polluting vehicles as the most effective solution, but I then realised that if we were to ‘Reorganise deliveries to reduce peak pollution’ we would also be reducing peak congestion which may, in turn, speed throughput and result in fewer vehicles sitting idling for long periods. We could get a double whammy effect. I’d love to know if any studies have been done in this regard.”

Our regular commenter “Another Steve” pointed out that public transport provision has always been a problem. “As someone who has spent most of my working life commuting, via car, I would gladly have used public transport,” he said. “However, the problems that prevented this were always the same: reliability, cost, frequency and the ability to get a seat. These problems still persist so I’m at a loss as to how we will get more people to use public transport!”

Please continue to send us your opinions on this topic.