Poor produce fewer traffic emissions than rich but are most affected, study finds

Media Relations Team, 14 October 2019

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Cars on the street produce tons of emissions

A study analysing vehicle emissions in relation to different parts of society in England and Wales has found that more affluent households emit the highest levels of traffic-related pollutants but the poor are most exposed to this form of pollution. The findings from this research, carried out by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)'s Air Quality Management Resource Centre, are set out in an academic paper.

The researchers found that young families and households in poverty (those least able to move to cleaner areas) suffered higher concentrations of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants from road traffic. These levels were found to be 50 per cent higher than areas with the least households in poverty.

The study also found that people from poorer areas owned fewer and less-polluting cars on average per household. This compared to more affluent areas where there was a higher proportion of higher-polluting diesel cars and households were more likely to own multiple vehicles. Those poorer households also drove shorter distances, the researchers found.

"This work highlights the injustice created by road traffic-related air pollution. Unfortunately our evidence has shown that in general the poorest in society produce fewer traffic emissions, but are exposed to higher levels of pollution than those in more affluent areas based on where they live," said Dr Jo Barnes, who is Senior Research Fellow in the Air Quality Management Resource Centre.

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