News ID: 262974
Published: 1235 GMT December 15, 2019

Somerset has 'deadly levels of air pollution', claim Extinction Rebellion protesters

Somerset has 'deadly levels of air pollution', claim Extinction Rebellion protesters

Extinction Rebellion has claimed Somerset, a county in South West England, has "deadly levels of air pollution".

The climate change campaign group believes counting cars on a busy road in Yeovil, a town and civil parish in the district of South Somerset, highlights that the levels of air pollution in the region are "deadly", reported.

Campaigners wearing masks gathered on Kingston Road to wave flags and placards and study the traffic levels on the route.

Extinction Rebellion followers believe the world is in an "unprecedented global emergency" and that "we are in a life and death situation".

But despite the group's fears the latest studies suggest air quality is still cleaner locally than it is elsewhere — and not unsafe.

A spokesman for the protest group said: "Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion have carried out a traffic survey on Yeovil’s busiest road to highlight the deadly levels of air pollution being produced.

"In just one hour during the afternoon commute they counted 2,567 cars using Kingston Road, outside Yeovil Hospital. 

"Of those, only 89 contained three or more people, and an amazing 70 percent (1,805) only had one person in them.

"673 (26 percent) carried two people, 68 three people and 21 four people, and one had five people.

"If each car had carried four or more people, there would only have been 859 cars on the road, a much more efficient use of resources."

The spokesman said the survey was part of the Air We Grieve day of action during Extinction Rebellion’s 12 Days of Crisis protest during the General Election.

Michael Fox, one of the protesters involved, added: "We want to highlight the amount of traffic pollution in Yeovil and the wastefulness of our fossil-fuel culture.

"This survey highlights how we need better transport policies, to encourage us all to be less wasteful.

"We are calling on politicians on all parties in this election to take climate change seriously and tackle the emergency we are living through."

There's no doubt that poor quality air is no longer just a problem big cities like London have to worry about.

Plans for a clean air zone elsewhere in Somerset, in the city of Bath, highlight how traffic jams are creating hazardous air, forcing councils to take action to protect people.

But are the protesters right about the extent of the problem in Yeovil?

In 2017 a report for South Somerset District Council found only one area where nitrogen dioxide gas from vehicles had exceeded a recommended level — on the A37 near Ilchester.

This is the last air quality report available on the council's website though — and Extinction Rebellion might argue the targets need to be tougher.

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