Air pollution in Marlborough

Written by Dr Sam Page on .



I am writing to express my concern at the illegally high levels of air pollution that are being inflicted on our town, by the heavy traffic that is overwhelming its narrow streets. 

The level of ultra-fine particulates, PM10 is above the safe limit of 40 microns per cubic metre almost every day along London Road, however today [December 19] it is 10 - i.e. 'VERY HIGH'.

The health advice from DEFRA when pollution levels are HIGH is to avoid strenuous activity and to stay indoors!  This pollution is mainly coming from the tail-pipes of queuing diesel trucks, vans and cars.

The recent rise in diesel-powered delivery vans is also a major contributor to this problem.

According to the Royal College of Physicians, each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.  It has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes associated with dementia.

The health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to people who suffer from illness and premature death - and high costs to our health services and to business.

In the UK, these costs add up to more than £20 billion every year.  They recommend that local authorities act to protect public health when air pollution levels are HIGH.  When these limits are exceeded, local authorities must have the power to close or divert roads to reduce the volume of traffic, especially near schools.

Wiltshire Council has known that pollution due to diesel exhausts is above safe levels along the A346 since 2010, as they have been monitoring levels of Nitrous oxides since this time and has designated Marlborough an 'Air Quality Management Area' (AQMA).

Recently a particulate monitor was installed alongside London Road.  Nitrous oxide levels are regularly above the safe limit of 40 microns per cubic metre, while PM10 levels have reached more than 1,000 microns per cubic metre, which is 25 times over the safe limit, on several days this year. 

This means that children who attended St Peter's School when it was in London Road, have been exposed to episodes of dangerously high levels of air pollution for up to six years of their young lives.  This may have caused stunted lungs or asthma and left them exposed to other diseases in later life.

My own daughter attended this school for a couple of years, but I do not remember being warned of these risks by the teachers.

Episodes of dangerously high air pollution levels are likely to become more frequent once the new housing estate on the Salisbury Road is finished, by introducing another 200+ cars onto our roads.

Meanwhile town councillors are frantically searching for land that can be used for new car parks, due to public demand.  Research shows that the provision of more car parks can increase congestion - if more cars are attracted into the town centre.

Marlborough's air quality can only be improved by de-priming the A346 to restrict HGVs and by creating a 'clean air zone' within the AQMA, to exclude vehicles with diesel engines that don't comply with (Tier 4) emissions standards.

Some drivers could be persuaded to leave their cars at home if local bus services were improved and safe cycling routes were provided.





Dr Sam L J Page
Transition Marlborough

[Editors' note: Wiltshire Council's live feed from the London Road monitoring station can be accessed by using the direct link button on' front page.]