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New real-time air quality monitors installed in Cardiff

(Adobe Stock)

Forty-seven new, air-quality monitoring stations are to be placed across the city to help measure pollution in the air that we breathe.

The monitors – which will identify levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and very small particles of dust known as Particulate Matter (PM10and PM2.5) – will further improve how Cardiff Council measures air pollution and better identify problems quickly and take steps to reduce pollution.

They will be placed in the city’s four Air Quality Monitoring Areas (AQMAs) and more widely across the whole of the city, near areas of concern like schools and health centres following an assessment procedure designed to identify areas of high risk.

The new equipment will monitor air pollution 24-hours-a-day and the data will be collected and reported either quarterly or monthly on the Shared Regulatory Services website.

AQMA’s are set up in wards where the annual average of known pollutants is of concern because levels have historically breached or are close to the legal limit. They are currently in place in the city centre, Stephenson Court (Newport Road), Ely Bridge, and Llandaff. The latest Council report on annual air-quality monitoring shows that air pollution in all the AQMA’s in Cardiff is improving with concentrations below the legally-permitted limit values forNO2.

Cllr Dan De’Ath, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport at Cardiff Council said: “Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK and, after smoking, the second-biggest threat to public health. There is clear evidence to show that exposure to air pollution reduces life expectancy and significantly increases the risk of dying from heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases, lung cancer and other conditions.

“The latest study into air pollution in Cardiff shows that residents enjoyed cleaner air across the city throughout 2021 when compared with pre-pandemic figures in 2019. Although this data is encouraging, there is more work to do. We need to continue to reduce the levels of pollutants. If we want people to be healthier, we have to encourage people to be less reliant on their cars, and to make the shift to public transport, cycling or walking. Not only will it benefit people’s health but will help the city reduce our carbon imprint as we look to combat climate change.

“Along with emissions from industry, vehicle emissions, especially from diesel vehicles are the highest-contributing factor to poor air quality in cities across the UK. By enhancing our monitoring network with these new monitors, we will better understand the air quality in Cardiff which will allow us to react quickly to any pollution concerns and ensure appropriate measures are put in place to reduce air pollution and improve the air that our residents breathe.”

Nick Ruxton-Boyle, Vortex IOT Director of Environment said: “We are excited to support Clean Air projects with Cardiff City Council and welcome another Welsh local authority to our growing UK client base. The new network of VTX Air monitors across the city, and wider Cardiff area will provide accurate and hyperlocal data on a range of pollutants to support local air quality improvement projects and promote a greater public awareness of the harmful impacts of air pollution.”

The legal limit for NO2in Wales is an annual average concentration of 40 µg/m3and the results from the four AQMA’s in the city are as follows:

City Centre:The levels of NO2in the city centre has reduced significantly since 2019 but increased slightly compared with 2020 (when Castle Street was closed to traffic during the COVID recovery). In 2019, data shows that the NO2level was 44µg/m3from two separate monitoring stations, which reduced to 23 µg/m3and 26µg/m3respectively in 2020. In 2021, data from the same monitoring stations showed an annual average of 26 µg/m3.

Stephenson Court: All three monitoring stations in this AQMA show compliance with the NO2requirements, with the annual average remaining under 30µg/m3from all three sites. The data in 2019 shows the average NO2reading at 35.7 µg/m3, reducing to 28.4µg/m3in 2020 and increasing slightly to 29.3 µg/m3in 2021.

Ely Bridge:Three monitoring sites are in place at this location and all three sites are compliant with the requirements for NO2. In 2019, the annual average from this location was 38.6µg/m3, reducing to 30.4µg/m3in 2020 and increasing slightly to 31.7 µg/m3in 2021.

Llandaff:All monitoring stations show that the limit vales for NO2are compliant with the limit value set out in legislation. In 2019 the annual average showed the level at 41.3µg/m3, reducing to 33 µg/m3in 2020, but increasing to 37 µg/m3in 2021. The increase in the level from 2020 to 2021 reflects the increase in traffic volumes using this route, which is one of the main arterial routes into the city. The Council will ensure focussed monitoring Llandaff is maintained and enhanced in 2023.