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Trends in environmental conditions over recent years are described in a Digest of Statistics published today by the...
Trends in environmental conditions over recent years are described in a Digest of Statistics published today by the department of the environment.

The digest has chapters on the global atmosphere, air quality, inland water quality and use, coastal and marine waters, radioactivity, noise, waste and recycling, land use and cover and wildlife.

Some of the main points of interest for local authorities are:


- UK carbon dioxide emissions were 151 million tonnes in 1993, lower than in the previous year and broadly in line with the figures for the early 1980s. Power stations remain the major source of emissions, with domestic and industrial consumption accounting for over half the emissions by end user.

- Consumption of CFCs in the EC was over 60% lower in 1993 than in 1986

- Sulphur dioxide emissions fell in 1993 to 3.2 million tonnes, 35% less than in 1980. Power stations accounted for 66% of emissions, compared with 61% in 1980 and 45% in 1970

- 'Poor' air quality in respect of SO2, based on DoE criteria, was recorded at 13 of 19 monitoring sites in the UK on at least one occasion in 1993, most frequently in Barnsley (207 hours on 54 days) and Belfast East (137 hours on 34 days). Only Belfast East (2 hours) showed 'very poor' air quality. Four new sites became operational during 1993

- Total black smoke emissions decreased by around 3% in 1993 to 444 thousand tonnes. Emissions from road transport have nearly doubled since 1980 and make up around 51% of all emissions, while emissions by final domestic users have fallen by nearly 60% in the same period

- UK nitrogen oxides emissions fell to 2.3 million tonnes in 1993, the lowest level since 1984. Emissions from road traffic accounted for 49% of total emissions in 1993 but have successively fallen over the last four years following the introduction of catalytic converters

- 'Poor' air quality, for nitrogen dioxide, was recorded on at least one occasion at 14 of the 22 monitoring sites in 1993. All of the 14 were urban sites

- Carbon monoxide emissions decreased to 5.6 million tonnes in 1993, compared with 6.3 million tonnes in 1992, and reached the lowest level since 1985. Emissions from road transport account for 91% of emissions but are now falling following the introduction of catalytic converters

- UK emissions of lead from petrol-engined vehicles continued to decline following the introduction of 'lead- free' petrol in 1986. Emissions in 1993 were 1.3 thousand tonnes - half the level in 1989

- Unleaded petrol accounted for 61% of UK deliveries in February 1995


- In England and Wales 89% of rivers and canals in 1993 were graded as 'good' or 'fair' chemical quality under the NRA's new General Quality Assessment scheme. Under different chemical grading schemes 99% of rivers and canals in Scotland were 'unpolluted' or of 'fairly good' quality in 1990, and 97 per cent of Northern Ireland's freshwater rivers were graded of 'good' or 'fair' quality in 1991


- In 1994, 82% of identified bathing waters in the UK complied with the EC Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) on mandatory coliform standards, continuing an improving trend since 1991, when 76 per cent of bathing waters complied. Yorkshire and Wessex regions and Northern Ireland had compliance rates of over 90% in 1994


- The UK annual average radiation dose from fallout increased almost fivefold in 1986 as a result of the Chernobyl reactor incident, but had returned to pre-1986 levels by 1992

- Atmospheric discharges of inert gases from Sellafield increased by almost 100% between 1992 and 1993, and discharges of inert gases from power stations fell by 16% over the same period

- Analysis of milk from farms around Sellafield, Dounreay, Harwell and Winfrith shows concentrations of strontium-90 and caesium-137 continuing to fall from the high levels associated with the Chernobyl reactor incident in 1986

- Liquid discharges of tritium from Sellafield increased by almost 93% between 1992 and 1993, and discharges of tritium from power stations rose by 44% over the same period


- According to a survey carried out in 1991 to assess awareness of and attitudes to noise in the home, road traffic noise was identified as the most commonly heard environmental noise followed by aircraft noise and neighbour noise

- People's voices are the most common source of neighbour noise although barking dogs or other animals seemingly cause the most disturbance with 93% of those hearing the noise being irritated by it

- Over half the people hearing neighbourhood noise are unlikely to take any action

- The number of noise complaints per million people to environmental health officers from all sources in England and Wales continues to rise with a 14% increase in 1992/93 over 1991/92


- Estimated waste arisings from mining and quarrying in the UK in 1993 were 16 million tonnes (15%) less than in 1990. The mining and quarrying sector is the largest single source with almost 25% of arisings

- Records kept in England and Wales under the Transfrontier Shipment of Hazardous Waste regulations show that imports rose by 21,000 tonnes in 1993/4 to over 66,000 tonnes

This was largely owing to imports of garage wastes from Germany for incineration at Edmonton, London. Imports from Germany accounted for almost 50% of the total hazardous wastes imported

- Over 1,000 million aluminium cans were collected in 1993, more than five times the number collected in 1990

- A five-fold increase in the number of steel cans collected through the Save-a-Can scheme was also recorded over the same period.

- The number of sites participating in the bottle bank scheme in 1993 has trebled since 1988 to 10,965

- In 1993, green belts in England covered about 15,500 sq km, around 12% of the country, slightly more than twice the area designated in 1989. Green belts in Scotland cover around 1,550 sq km, 2% of the country.

- Results from the 1993 Hedgerow Survey suggest that the total length of hedgerows in England and Wales had declined to 377,500 km from nearly 432,00 km in 1990. Of the net reduction, around 95% was the result of management neglect Designated areas

- In 1994, 15% of England and Wales, 13% of Scotland and 20% of Northern Ireland were designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. National Parks covered 9% of the land area in England and Wales in 1994

- There were 6,103 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Great Britain in 1994.

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