If you want to know how air pollution affects your local environment, the information is now available at your fingertips, thanks to a new web-based information system, launched today (Tuesday 15 June 2004).
From Holyhead to St David’s, Aberystwyth to Knighton, you can see the impact of air pollution on the length and breadth of Wales, and the rest of the UK.
You can search the Air Pollution Information System (APIS) by location (grid reference), among other things, to find the level of air pollution for any area in the UK, along with a breakdown of the polluting agents – nitrogen, ozone, acid rain etc and details of the impacts these pollutants have. It is a free service, available for everyone so try it on www.apis.ac.uk
For example, the site shows that many of Wales’ most important and protected habitats are receiving unacceptably high loads of atmospheric pollutants. Oak woodlands in Bethesda are experiencing high levels of acid deposition while heathlands around Brecon are loaded with nitrogen pollution.
Dr Simon Bareham, senior pollution adviser for the Countryside Council for Wales, one of the lead partners in the development of APIS said: “In the past, a lot of environmental damage was caused by acid rain coming from large power stations. However while these sources were being cleaned up, a whole new range of air pollutants have emerged that threaten our health and environment.
“Evidence shows that the levels of air nitrogen pollution (arising from transport, industry and agriculture) have steadily increased and are having a profound effect on ecosystems throughout Wales and the UK. Levels of toxic ozone (a gas produced by a cocktail of man-made atmospheric pollutants converted by sunlight) are steadily increasing and were responsible for 600 deaths in the UK last summer as well as damaging sensitive plant species.
“Now, powerful European legislation is driving the UK towards reducing the impact of pollution on the environment, and to tackle climate change. The Air Pollution Information System (APIS) has been developed to help this work by providing everybody with a one-stop shop to help assess the effects of air pollution.
“We hope APIS will be of particular interest and use to developers, local authorities and environmental groups as they plan their work, as well as to the public at large who are obviously concerned about air pollution for human health as well as environmental reasons,” added Dr Bareham.