Any environmentalists able to help here?

Pollution levels are measured in tiny particles of soot and dirt. The particulate matter, known as PM10s, can cause lung and heart problems when inhaled.

In order to meet the European Commission targets the daily limit for PM10 in the UK must not exceed 50 micrograms per metre squared more than 35 times in a calendar year. London was supposed to meet the target by January 1 2005 but has had to ask for a series of extensions. The latest deadline is September and if London fails again then the UK faces a fine of £300?million.

How, actually, can PM10s be reduced?

Anyone know?

19 thoughts on “Any environmentalists able to help here?”

  1. Roughly speaking, switch as much combustion as possible as far down the chain from coal -> oil -> diesel -> petrol -> gas as possible. Then plant lots of trees.

  2. I know there’s a rapid switchover to hybrid buses in London this year as bus companies panic buy new stock before all replacements are required to be Boris Buses, which require a conductor.

  3. Exhaust filtration is another way.

    Also, achieving full combustion is another way, making sure that all the fuel is converted to CO2 and H2O rather than CO and particulates.

  4. AFAIK in London the problem is mostly from cars and lorries, solutions being – catalytic converters in the exhaust pipe, regular maintenance of engines, modern engines.
    Diesel engines are bad for both soot and nitrous oxides. Its why Ken banned old lorries from London.

  5. If you want a solution, best not to ask an environmentalist. Much better to talk to a real scientist or an engineer. AS previous commentators have noted PM10 arise mainly from our old friend the ICE and reduction to the EU mandated level is potentially achievable by adressing this issue: lean burn engines, catalytic converters (which actually work on PM10s by filtration of the exhaust gases) etc. The other mechanism is to ensure free traffic flow, as some wag pointed out many years ago the highest concentration of PM1o in the Blackwall Tunnel is during periods of zero traffic flow…

  6. Diesel engines are bad for both soot and nitrous oxides.

    Only if you don’t have an exhaust scrubber. Diesels are the only vehicles allowed down the tunnel at an underground power station my father used to work in. Modern diesels have very clean exhaust.

  7. Surround London with a band of windmills and power them with free electricity generated offshore somewhere outside the Hebrides to blow the pollution away.
    Oh, and dare I seem to correct? Catalytic converters only act on the gas constituents of the exhaust. To clean out particulates needs a Diesel Particulate Filter and all the associated regenerative cleaning fluids etc. Peugeot are noted for this….

  8. Don’t decrease the PM10s. Increase the limit.

    The limit is probably arbitrary anyway, some number picked out of thin air. It sounds like it when London is allowed to exceed it 35 times a year.

    So the causes of these excessive amounts of PM10 will be down to weather. And we all know how variable weather can be. So the UK is going to be penalised for having weather that is too variable. Why is the figure not 40 times a year. Or 100. Oh, blow it why not allow it to exceed the current PM10 limit 365 times a year.

  9. I was thinking along the lines of #8.

    What about water sprays, like hot countries used to use to damp down the dust on the roads? Wouldn’t that make the little particles stick together so that they’re too big to count as PM10s?

    Or what about fog? Bring back proper London fogs (artificially produced if necessary) to fill the air with water vapour.

  10. “50 micrograms per metre squared”: metre squared of what? If they’re referring to the atmosphere, do they mean metre cubed?

  11. What Jonathan says at #1. Diesel engines produce a bit less CO2 per mile than petrol or LPG engines (15-25% less, depending on make & model), but a lot more PM10 (anywhere between 20 times more and 200 times more, various reports). The simplest way to cut PM10s would be to reduce diesel engine use.

    Unfortunately, in blind pursuit of CO2 goals, our benevolent leaders encourages the use of low-CO2 diesel engines. Road tax is lower, benefit-in-kind tax is lower, etc. The CO2 advantages of diesels are touted by manufactures and govt at every opportunity. In London, cars which emit under 100g/km of CO2 are exempt from the congestion charge. Nearly all cars in that category are diesels.

    Screw public health, asthma, or air quality; we must save the whales!

  12. #7 Matthew L – no, electrostatic scrubbers don’t work very well at all on diffuse exhaust. In power stations producing tonnes/hr, sure. I work in tunnel projects where we measure single digit kilograms/hr in the exhaust stacks, and one estimate for scrubbers to maybe cut that in half was going to require 50MW of power.

    Diesel isn’t great, but in some cities over winter up to 97% of particulates come from wood fires. I’m not talking third world here either – that figure came from Sydney. Ban the fancy open fireplaces, problem solved.

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