The consultation paper focuses on proposals to introduce new objectives for the pollutants of particles (PM10), benzene, carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The main sources of these pollutants can range from vehicle emissions, power generation, to industry. The proposed health-based objectives will replace or supplement those set out in the Air Quality Strategy 2000. These are another step forward in the commitment of the national assembly to protect the health of the public.
The consultation, which is also being undertaken in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at the same time, will cover all local authorities and their representative organisations, representatives of business and industry, the environment agency and environmental and health organisations.
Launching the consultation document, Ms Essex said: 'These proposed new objectives are good news, both for our environment and our health. They address the important problem of poor air quality and demonstrate our commitment to reducing pollutant emissions by moving forward with policy measures and stricter targets.
'I welcome this consultation process, as it provides an invaluable opportunity for the assembly to work with our key partners such as regulators, health professionals and industry, to develop air quality targets for Wales that are challenging yet realistic'.
The Air Quality Strategy was published in January 2000. This established the framework for achieving further improvements in ambient air quality in the UK to 2003 and beyond. It set health-based standards and objectives for eight air pollutants.
The objectives for seven pollutants have already been prescribed in regulations made under the Environment Act 1995 for the purposes of local air quality management. The Air Quality (Wales) Regulations 2000 brought into force air quality standards that were derived following the various consultations that were undertaken while developing the Air Quality Strategy 2000.
The proposed objectives for the Air Quality Strategy are:
Particles - For all parts of the UK, except London and Scotland, a 24hour mean of 50m g/m3, not to be exceeded more than 7 times per year, and annual mean of 20m g/m3, to be achieved by the end of 2010.
For London, a 24 hour mean of 50m g/m3 not to be exceeded more than 10 - 14 times per year, and an annual mean of 23 -25 m g/m3 to be achieved by the end of 2010. A tighter objective has also been considered for Scotland. This would be an annual mean of 18m g/m3 and a 24 hour mean of 50m g/m3, not to be exceeded more than 7 times per year, both to be achieved by the end of 2010. During the consultation period, the assembly will be evaluating the possible implications that adopting this lower objective limit in Wales could have on both the environment and the economic sector. It is also proposed that the mayor and London local authorities should work towards a target of 20m g/m3 after 2010, with the aim of achieving it by 2015 where cost effective and proportionate local action can be identified.
Carbon monoxide - For all parts of the UK, it is proposed that the objective should be 10mg/m3 as a running 8-hour mean to be achieved by 2003.
Benzene - For all parts of the UK, it is proposed that the objective should be 3.25m g/m3 as a running annual mean to be achieved across the UK by 2010.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's) - For all parts of the UK, it is proposed to introduce a new provisional objective 0.25ng/m3 as an annual mean to be achieved by 2010.
The Air Quality Strategy 2000 represented a comprehensive review of the 1997 Strategy. These latest proposals follow a review of part of the present Strategy to take into account of the latest advice on health effects of air pollution as well as recent technical and policy development. The Strategy will be updated from time to time to reflect scientific advances, our better understanding of economic and social issues and developments in European legislation.