Air quality in Cardiff improves


The latest air quality data for Cardiff suggests a marked improvement in 2019, compared with the previous year in three out of four Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA's) in the city.

The data, which is pre-pandemic, points towards air quality improving in the city.

AQMA's are established when monitoring of air pollution indicates levels are close to or exceeding the legal requirements. Currently AQMA's are in place in the City Centre (focussing on Westgate Street); Ely Bridge, Stephenson Court (off Newport Road), and in Llandaff.

The legal limit forNO2in Wales is an annual average concentration of 40 µg/m3. Monitoring results at locations where residents are more likely to be exposed within the AQMAs have shown the following results for 2019:

Westgate Street:In 2018, the NO2 annual average concentration was 37.3µg/m3which reduced to 35.6µg/m3in 2019

Stephenson Court: In 2018, the NO2 annual concentration was 38.2µg/m3which reduced to 35.7 µg/m3in 2019

Ely Bridge:In 2018, the NO2 annual concentration was 39.9µg/m3which reduced to 38.6 µg/m3in 2019

Llandaff:In 2018, the NO2 annual concentration was 32.5µg/m3which increased to 41.3 µg/m3in 2019.

Whilst it does appear that the results for the Llandaff AQMA show a worsening picture they need to be seen in context, as the results are not comparing ‘like for like' locations. The results from 2019 represent a new monitoring site which in 2018 actually recorded concentrations of 48 µg/m3. 

Due to some gaps in data at this location, the data collected in 2018 was not considered to be truly representative. Due to ongoing concerns about the elevated levels of NO2results in the Llandaff AQMA, the Council has installed a real-time monitor to ensure robust and continuous data can be captured to help inform any actions to further reduce pollution levels at this location.

Poor air quality is considered to be 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 mortality from heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases, lung cancer and other conditions.

In Wales, based on 2011/12 data, it has been estimated that an equivalent of 1,100 avoidable deaths can be linked toNitrogen Dioxide (NO2)exposure each year. Looking at data for the UK in 2016, air pollution was estimated to be responsible for the equivalent of 40,000 deaths each year.

Cllr Michael Michael, Cabinet Member responsible for Shared Regulatory Services at Cardiff Council said: "The data for 2019 shows an ongoing improvement compared with 2018, which we intend to build on to reduce air pollution across the city. The data for 2020 looks even more promising, but obviously the impact of lockdowns due to COVID will have an impact on this year's data.

"A recent report by Centre for Cities which has recently released looks at the impact to air quality during the pandemic, and it appears that Cardiff has not returned to the pre-pandemic levels of air pollution which some cities have.

"The Council has recently set out our One Planet Strategy which sets out the council's response to climate change and the projects and plans which will bring us further towards our aim to become carbon neutral by 2030."

The Council's Cabinet will be presented with the findings at its meeting on December on December 17th, before the report is submitted to the Welsh Government.

The result given in 2018 for the Llandaff AQMA was located outside The Old Police Station, Mitre Place. The result provided in 2019 was recorded outside the residential address 62 Bridge Street. Given this difference in locality, the comparison in the data published for Llandaff between 2018 and 2019 is not scientifically comparable.

The Council has a number of air quality monitoring stations across the city. Cardiff has both automated monitoring stations and non-automated monitoring stations. The automated monitoring stations record air quality levels for a number of pollutants 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, whereby the non-automated monitoring sites use passive diffusion tubes to record monthly average figures of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Here diffusion tubes are collected and analysed by a laboratory on a monthly basis to produce monthly average NO2figures.

Automated monitoring stations are located at Frederick Street; Richards Terrace; Lakeside Primary School, Llandaff Bridge Street, and more recently Castle Street, Westgate Street, Lower Cathedral Road, Tudor Street, North Road & Penarth Road.

Diffusion Tube data is collected from over 100 sites across Cardiff which includes monitoring at a number of school establishments.