Friday, 26 May 2017

“Building firms need to start treating diesel emissions in the same way as asbestos”

Poor air quality, with diesel the biggest culprit, is now thought to be the cause of 40,000 deaths in the UK each year.
But while cars and lorries have attracted most attention, less reported is the contribution of other polluters to the problem, particularly construction sites.
According to the most detailed air-quality study in the UK, the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, construction sites are responsible for approximately 7.5% of damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 8% of large particle emissions (PM10) and 14.5% of emissions of the most dangerous fine particles (PM2.5).
While a small amount of this (about 1%) is dust from site activities like demolition, the vast majority comes from the thousands of diesel diggers, generators and other machines operating on sites.
Yet this machinery is not held to the same emissions standards as on-road vehicles. What’s more, its proportionate impact will only get higher as on-road emissions drop, according to Daniel Marsh, King’s College London academic and project manager for the London Low Emission Construction Partnership.
So what are the chances the industry can improve?
Given the construction industry’s questionable history with asbestos, which wasn’t regulated until 1983 or completely banned until 1999 – almost 40 years after the cancer link was proven – some are sceptical. In 2005, the Health and Safety Executive found that each year more than 230 construction workers die from cancers caused by exposure to diesel fumes, a figure it hasn’t since updated, even though more is now known about diesel’s noxious effects.
Increased awareness within the industry itself may help. At least one online community for UK builders warns “Construction firms to be sued over diesel cancer!”:
The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health stated: “in Britain, over 650 people a year die of lung or bladder cancer as a result of being exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work. About 800 new cases of cancer linked to diesel exhaust exposure are registered each year.”