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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 24 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Bradford is currently 1.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Open your windows to bring clean, fresh air indoors|
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|Friday, Aug 5|
Good 19 US AQI
|Saturday, Aug 6|
Good 20 US AQI
|Sunday, Aug 7|
Good 23 US AQI
Good 24 US AQI
|Tuesday, Aug 9|
Good 23 US AQI
|Wednesday, Aug 10|
Good 50 US AQI
|Thursday, Aug 11|
Good 49 US AQI
|Friday, Aug 12|
Good 46 US AQI
|Saturday, Aug 13|
Good 30 US AQI
|Sunday, Aug 14|
Good 29 US AQI
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Bradford is a city in England part of the metropolitan area of west Yorkshire. Like many cities in England, it has a long history of polluted air largely thanks to the industrial revolution which took place from the mid 1700’s through to the 1800’s. Although the levels of pollution will have diminished significantly from what they once were, when factories running on fossil fuels were going full force, it still stands to reason that Bradford is prone to some unusually bad qualities of air. The United Kingdom usually sees a large amount of its cities falling into the World Health Organizations target PM2.5 rating of 0 to 10 μg/m³.
PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers (or less) in diameter, and as such is one of the main elements of air pollution that is used to calculate the overall quality of air and pollution levels. Looking back at 2019, it can be observed that 77 cities in the U.K came in within the WHO’s target rating for their yearly averages, making England’s air quality fairly respectable.
In the year of 2020, Bradford has seen numbers of PM2.5 up to 42 μg/m³, as recorded on the 28th of November. Whilst this is not a constant reading, it shows that the levels of pollution can rise up to quite hazardous levels, with this reading putting Bradford temporarily into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket, which requires a reading of anywhere between 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ to be classed as such.
This rating means that those who are susceptible to poor health, such as young children (who’s development can be heavily stunted by overexposure to pollution, both mentally and physically), the elderly, or the immunocompromised and those with preexisting conditions, could be at higher risk for adverse health effects and premature death.
Whilst this represents the higher end of Bradford's readings, there are lows of 2.6 μg/m³ that have been recorded, putting it well within the WHO’s target PM2.5 bracket, as taken on the 15th of November. As such, whilst Bradford does suffer from elevated levels of pollution, it has safe and breathable levels of air quality for many days of the year.
There are several main causes of air pollution in Bradford, with several issues coming together to compound the situation rather than having just one single cause. One of the more pertinent ones would be the motor vehicle industry, which can put out large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as sulfur dioxide (SO2), a large contributing factor to acid rain (due to the sulfur present in the compound raising the acidity levels in the rainclouds).
Nitrogen dioxide however would be the more prominent pollutant here, with large amounts of it being found in areas that see a lot of traffic, emitted from all manner of vehicles such as motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks. Nitrogen dioxide is found so prominently in areas that see large volumes of traffic passing through it that it can be used to calculate how much of the pollution levels are actually being caused by cars alone. As mentioned before, cars are not the main source of pollutants or smoke that is found in the air. Strong winds can blow in haze and PM2.5 and PM10 from other neighboring countries in Europe, as well as local sources all playing their own part. Wood burning stoves have been used traditionally for hundreds of years in England, and still see continued use till today. Wood is not exclusive to the material being burnt, with fossil fuels such as coal also finding their way into the stoves, particularly during the colder months of winter due to the need for heating within homes.
The burning of wood and fossil fuels, which incidentally, can still be found in some vehicles (diesel-based engines, although increasingly rare in the U.K due to stricter rules) can lead to a myriad of pollutants and fine particles released into the atmosphere. Some of these would include black carbon, a highly noxious particulate matter formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and organic matter such as wood.
It is one of the primary components in soot, and can often be seen coating areas of road that have high levels of traffic. Other pollutants would include volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and furans, to name but a few, all with highly negative effects on human health, as well as the ecosystem and environment.
Due to the air pollution being of increasing concern to the citizens and council of Bradford, a number of initiatives have been put into place. These include ones such as the introduction of ‘ultra-low emission zones’, which would charge vehicle users to drive in certain areas, particularly the city center. A push has been made to ban the use of wood burning stoves, as previously mentioned, with particular emphasis on clamping down on their use in areas of the city that see elevated levels of PM2.5 and PM10 in the air.
When comparing the air quality to that of the capital city, it appears that Bradford seems to suffer from slightly worse levels of air quality than London does, although not by a huge amount. Still, this is somewhat unexpected due to London being more densely populated, with many more cars and industries.
Between the 8th of November and 7th of December in 2020, Bradford had a day which reached the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket, something that London avoided. Whilst London came across as more consistent with its levels of pollution, Bradford can be seen jumping back and forth between low readings and higher ones (usually between 20 to 30 μg/m³ in the aforementioned time period), making a larger number of days more hazardous to those prone to respiratory problems.
When breathing highly polluted air such as the PM2.5 spike of 42 μg/m³, as recorded on the 28th of November, some health issues that may arise would include many lung and heart related issues.
Instances of emphysema, bronchitis and aggravated asthma can become more common, as well as damage to the pulmonary tissue and a reduction in overall lung function. PM2.5 is small enough to enter the blood stream where it can cause cardiac events such as heart attacks, arrhythmias as well as damaging the blood vessels. Other parts of the body that are affected would include the liver, kidneys and reproductive system. These are to name but a few of the health problems associated with breathing higher levels of pollution, and as such preventative measures should be taken on days with worse PM2.5 readings, such as the wearing of high-quality particle filtering masks.