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At a recent inquest in London, the Coroner found that a young girl who suffered from asthma had died primarily because of air pollution. The Coroner has now called on the Government to introduce legally binding minimum requirements for clean air which meet with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO Guidelines

It might help to illustrate the Coroner’s argument to compare some of the guidelines and the current UK standards.  Taking one of the main primary pollutants as an example – particulate matter.

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter is everything in the air that isn’t a gas and so includes all sorts of chemical compounds, many of which are toxic. 

Particulate matter

WHO Guideline

Current UK Standard

10 micrograms per cubic metre annually

40 micrograms per cubic metre annually

It can be seen that the current UK standard is way in excess of the WHO Guideline.

Legally binding targets

If the Government were to endorse the call by the Coroner, then legally binding targets would be set.  If the targets were then failed to be met, then at some point the Government, or other public authorities could become liable for death or injury caused as a result of air pollution which fails to meet the targets. 

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