GMB Call For Action To Reduce Pollution Levels For Street Cleaners, Refuse & Parking Staff

20 May 2014

Localised monitoring has shown some areas with extremely high levels of pollutants so councils should do more to identify the areas and times of day and vulnerable people should also be helped to avoid these areas says GMB.

GMB, the union for street cleaners, refuse workers and parking staff, today publish a new study of official data on the mean average level of PM10 pollutants in the air measured so far for 2014 at 58 monitoring stations across the UK. PM10s are noxious particles which irritate the airways and find their way deep down into the lungs causing breathing difficulties even in healthy people. Workers who work on the roadside such as street cleaners, refuse workers, parking staff and others are particularly exposed to such pollutants. GMB is calling for more localised monitoring and for action to further reduce exposures. The European Union sets PM10 levels at 40ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) on average over a year, while the WHO guidelines put this lower, at 20ug/m3.
John McClean, GMB National Health, Safety and Environment Officer said, “This study shows that there are high levels of PM-10s in areas across the UK. Clean air should be a right, not a privilege.
Road transport is a major cause of air pollution. Exposure is attributed to thousands of deaths and new cases of asthma and bronchitis each year. The World Health Organisation states that there are no safe limits for these particles. Government has to ban high polluting vehicles from our city centres. There is a need to look at the final mile delivery from business to business and to consumers in urban areas being reorganized to be done on a zero emission basis.

More has to be done to force all diesel vehicle manufacturers to fit particulate filters to their vehicles. The mistaken belief that diesel cars are ‘better’ for the environment has to be challenged. Diesel cars emit twenty two times more PM10s that petrol cars do. Public transport must be made clean, reliable and affordable. Councils must improve facilities for cyclists and employers should pay cycle allowances and other incentives to discourage car use. Localised monitoring has shown some areas with extremely high levels of pollutants. So councils should do more monitoring to identify areas and times of day with high levels of pollutants. Doctor’s surgeries should have information on display making vulnerable people aware of these areas so that they can avoid them.

Schools should advise parents and children of the routes to and from schools with the lowest levels of pollutants. Contractors and councils should consider installing monitoring equipment on wagons and barrows. They should look at designing street cleaning and refuse collection routes to avoid the times in the areas with the highest levels of pollutants.” 
Contact: Justin Bowden national officer for contractors on 07710 631351 or John McClean GMB 07710 631 329 or Dan Shears 07918 767781