Environment

The environment has a significant effect on health and wellbeing.  High quality environments have a key part in helping people to live healthier and happier lives. Environmental problems such as noise, air pollution, food safety, pest control and contaminated land can have a significant impact on individual and population health.  Climate change continues to pose significant future risks to human health if actions are not taken now both to reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy demands to sustainable levels.

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Last updated: 2013-02-05 12:56:17
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1. What are the key issues?

Emissions to air
Reducing emissions from industrial and commercial sectors.

Severe weather
There is evidence of increasing rainfall and temperatures.  Winter rainfall in Redcar & Cleveland has almost doubled since 1961, with an average increase of 44mm during October to March.

Fuel poverty 
Rising fuel costs, low household income and homes with poor energy efficiency will lead to an increase in households in fuel poverty.  Seven of Redcar & Cleveland’s 22 wards are in a rural setting, containing homes which are hard-to-treat and/or off the gas network.

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

2. What commissioning priorities are recommended?

2012/01
Develop a partnership approach, including small and medium enterprises as well as large industrial establishments to reduce emissions to air
.  A co-ordinated approach and investment in new technologies for many years to come is required.

2012/02
Ensure all public sector partners lead by example and reduce their own emissions through carbon management
by:

  • minimising heat loss from buildings and reducing electricity use;
  • supporting the installation of renewable technologies;
  • raising awareness in departments and service areas of the importance of reducing energy use.

2012/03
Ensure the Climate Change Adaptation Plan
(Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, 2011) is fully implemented.

 

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

3. Who is at risk and why?

Age
Older people are at increased risk of death in winter months compared to other times of year and other age groups.  Fuel poverty and a lack of affordable warmth affects older people more than other age groups and contributes towards excess winter deaths.

The people most at risk from the effects of air pollution are the very young, older people and those who already have a predisposing illness which air pollution can exacerbate.  People with asthma are particularly at risk during episodes of high air pollution levels.  One in eleven children and one in twelve adults in the UK suffer from asthma (Asthma UK, 2010).  In certain situations it is possible that air pollution plays a part in the induction of asthma in some individuals who live near busy roads, particularly roads carrying high numbers of heavy goods vehicles (Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution, 2010).

Socioeconomic status
It is estimated that climate change will have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged, vulnerable and deprived groups compared to the rest of the population.  The following health impacts of climate change for the UK are identified (Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK, 2008, DH):

  • heat-related health problems and worsening air quality, causing increased pollution-related illness and deaths;
  • increased risk of contaminated drinking water, water-borne infections and exposure to toxic pollutants;
  • increased prevalence of food poisoning and water-borne disease linked to warmer weather;
  • increased rates of sunburn and skin cancer;
  • social disruption, injury, disability and death as a consequence of extreme weather-related events such as hurricanes and river, coastal and flash floods.

Noise can cause annoyance, interfere with communication and sleep, cause fatigue and damage hearing. Physiological effects of exposure to noise include constriction of blood vessels, tightening of muscles, increased heart rate and blood pressure and changes to stomach and abdomen movement. Occupational noise can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss.  Noise is reported to be responsible for 3% of ischaemic heart disease in the UK, for 3% of tinnitus and causes a rise in stress hormones leading to increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and reduced immune system (WHO, 2011b). The same report says 2% of Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep and 15% can suffer severe annoyance. People living near busy roads and those with noisy neighbours are most at risk, including the most vulnerable such as housebound, the already sick (who’s condition could be worsened), the young and elderly.  Noise proliferates in areas of deprivation where houses are most densely populated and more likely to be near busy roads.

Reports on the medical effects of air quality suggest that the short-term impact results in the premature death of between 12,000-14,000 vulnerable people in the UK each year and between 14,000-24,000 hospital admissions /readmissions per year. Air quality is one of the government’s 68 indicators in the Sustainable Development Strategy. People in poorer areas tend to live close to pollution sources including busy roads and industrial sites.

Air quality
Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, the burden of disease from respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer can be reduced (WHO, 2011a).

In cities, people inside vehicles are exposed to greater levels of fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide concentrations than cyclists and pedestrians (Kaur et al, 2007).  However, due to increased respiration and longer travel time, pedestrians and especially cyclists may inhale greater concentrations of pollution over the course of their journey – except when they are able to use walk/cycle paths away from motorised traffic (Dirks et al, 2012).

The Lancet series ‘The health benefits of tackling climate change’ (2009) documented the benefits of reducing emissions such as the reduction of motor vehicle use through more walking and cycling.  This will not only diminish transport emissions but reduce obesity, lower the rate of chronic diseases caused by physical inactivity and lessen the health-damaging effects of air pollution.

Contaminated land
Contaminated land poses risks to both human health and the environment depending on the types and volumes of pollutants present at particular sites.

Pest control
Infestations by pests can affect everyone, but tend to affect disadvantaged populations more due to poorer housing conditions, improper storage of food waste and cleanliness.  About 80% of mild or moderate asthmatic children have a positive allergy skin test to cockroach and dust mite allergens.  Rats can spread several diseases (for example, salmonellosis, leptospirosis, and typhus) and carry mites and lice. Rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs can be a source of anxiety, affecting mental health and wellbeing (WHO, 2008).

Energy efficiency
Climate change is, in large part, driven by emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. To reduce emissions will require a level of energy efficiency in homes and buildings that is currently uncommon in the UK.  Major policy changes on new buildings, and incentives to modify existing buildings, plus a large shift to strategic and local renewable energy generation and smart power grids is required.

Green space
Access to the natural environment and other open spaces has significant benefits for health and wellbeing, by reducing stress, improving mental well-being and encouraging greater levels of physical activity across all age groups. Safe, green spaces have the potential to increase communal activity in different social groups, increase residents’ satisfaction with their local area and improve air and noise quality. Open space provision also acts to mitigate climate change, reducing the impacts of flooding and heat waves and reducing CO2 emissions.

The frequency of visits to open space declines significantly with increasing distance from the open space, with the exception of young people. There is a statistically significant decrease in the likelihood of achieving physical activity recommendations and an increase in the likelihood of being overweight or obese associated with increasing distance to formal green space (Natural England, 2011).

 

Last updated: 03/09/13

4. What is the level of need in the population?

Emissions to air
Redcar & Cleveland has the highest emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2 – the main contributing gas to climate change) in the Tees Valley, with 3 million tonnes emitted in 2010, and one of the highest in the UK. This is primarily due to large industries found in Redcar & Cleveland. At 21.8 tonnes per capita, this is significantly higher than the North East average of 9.4 tonnes per capita and the UK average of 7.6 tonnes per capita , but about one-third the historic level of emissions.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Tees

 

Severe weather
During the winters of 2010/11 and 2011/12, temperatures reached as low as -10oC and there were prolonged periods of low temperatures.  This had the potential to increase the numbers of excess winter deaths and the likelihood of cold-related ill health.

Fuel poverty
Of 60,000 households in Redcar & Cleveland, nearly 15,000 (24%) are estimated to be in fuel poverty.  This is similar to the North East (24.1%) but higher than England (21%) (DECC, 2009).  There is significant variation in fuel poverty rates in Redcar & Cleveland. At lower super output area (LSOA) level the range is from 6.6% to 35.2% of households in fuel poverty.
Redcar & Cleveland households in fuel poverty at LSOA level

In Redcar & Cleveland there is an average of 88 excess deaths in winter each year compared to other times of year (West Midlands Public Health Observatory, 2010).

 

Last updated: 06/12/13

5. What services are currently provided?

Emissions to air
A number of initiatives continue to reduce emissions in Redcar & Cleveland.  On an industrial scale, SembCorp, managers of the Wilton industrial complex, opened a biomass power plant in 2007, saving 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum. At a local authority level, the Council has a target to reduce its own emissions by 40% by 2014, saving 8% in the first year of a Carbon Management Plan. This has been achieved through a major awareness campaign, installing renewable energy technologies in Council buildings and a range of other projects.  The Council has set aside £3.5m to reduce emissions to air.

The Climate Change Mitigation Plan lists all of the actions to be taken by industry, voluntary and community sector organisations and public sector partners to reduce emissions to air.

Severe weather
To address the risks from adverse weather, there is a wide range of changes to service practices and a number of activities undertaken to better prepare communities through the Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Within the plan there are agreed measures delivered by the Council and a range of other partners including actions such as:

  • increasing the Council’s capacity to invest in and treat the highway network to reduce road closures;
  • guidance and support sessions for businesses to prepare for severe weather;
  • publishing advanced information and weather alerts to the public;
  • developing a single database of vulnerable individuals and the response needed in extreme weather.

Fuel poverty

  • Redcar & Cleveland Warm and Well Programme provides a central point of contact for fuel poverty advice, referring to appropriate schemes to provide practical measures.
  • Cleveland Fire Brigade provides an immediate response to those households without adequate heating.
  • The Energy Savings Trust provides energy efficiency advice and refers to appropriate schemes for measures. Funded by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
  • Fall Prevention Service
  • Ageing Well Strategy
  • Warm Front provides practical measures to households living in fuel poverty.
  • Utility providers’ priority customer schemes – Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) provides loft and cavity wall insulation for households who receive a qualifying benefit or are aged over 70.

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

6. What is the projected level of need?

Emissions to air
Emissions to air come from a variety of sources such as transport, commercial activity and generating energy. In Redcar & Cleveland, significant industrial complexes generate as much as 93% of all emissions. Delivering significant emissions reductions therefore is challenging as:

  • supporting economic growth and industrial expansion is a priority for the local economy to deliver job creation.
  • these emissions are outside of the direct control of the local authority.


Climate change
Climate change predictions for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s are available to registered users.  The baseline period is from 1961 to 1990. (DEFRA, 2009).

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

7. What needs might be unmet?

An average of 88 additional people die each winter in Redcar & Cleveland. Their needs for more appropriate housing and care may contribute to this.

Increasing levels of fuel poverty - increased energy costs, reduced incomes and unemployment are combining to increase the numbers of households in fuel poverty. Analysis of the proposed support through the Green Deal suggests a substantial reduction in funding to be directed at households experiencing fuel poverty.

National grant-based schemes such as Warmfront, CESP and CERT for improving home energy efficiency came to an end in December 2012, to be replaced by a national pay-as-you-save-scheme, Green Deal. It is unclear how the public will take to a loan scheme, and how the related Energy Company Obligation support measures for hard-to-treat properties and poor and vulnerable households will work.

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

8. What evidence is there for effective intervention?

Reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre can cut deaths related to air quality by around 15% (WHO, 2005).

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

9. What do people say?

Emissions to air
At present, there has been little public consultation on tackling emissions.  Consultation with partner organisations has commenced to develop an action plan as part of the Climate Change Mitigation Plan.

Evidence was gathered from the partners through a series of workshops based on five severe weather scenarios as part of the Borough’s first Adaptation Conference and a second set of workshops was held to detail the impact of these weather events on people, communities and services.

The 400 potential impacts from severe weather events included issues such as:

  • transport disruption leading to services unable to reach individuals and communities;
  • increased summer deaths and emergency hospital admissions from heatwaves;
  • flooding of domestic properties;
  • disruption to power and energy infrastructure of domestic and business properties;
  • building and structural damage.

In addition, over 200 potential adaptation measures were identified that could lead to being better prepared for those events.

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

10. What additional needs assessment is required?

In the coming years, further engagement will be required with partners and further resource will be required to protect Redcar & Cleveland from climate change. Assessment is required every six months and the Climate Change Mitigation Plan will be revised in 2014.

 

Last updated: 05/02/13

Key Contact

Name: Paul Taylor

Job title: Environmental Sustainability Specialist

e-mail:  paul.taylor@redcar-cleveland.gov.uk

Phone number: 01642 771225

 

References

 

Local strategies and plans

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council (2010). Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2011-2014.

 

National strategies and plans

Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC, 2011). Fuel Poverty Strategy

DECC (2010). Warm Homes, Greener Homes.

Environment Agency (2011). National flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England.

UK Renewable Energy Strategy, 2009.

Environment Agency (2009). Water resources strategy for England and Wales.

 

Other references

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (2008).  The Impact of Climate Change on Pest Populations and Public Health.

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (2009). The Role of Pest Management in Protecting Public Health.

Climate UK (2012). UK Climate Change Risk Assessment: North East Summary.

Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution

Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC, 2012). Getting the measure of fuel poverty: final report of the fuel poverty review.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA, 2009). UK Climate projections.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA, 2012). UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.

Department of Health (DH, 2008). The Health Impact of Climate Change: Promoting Sustainable Communities.

Environment Agency (2012). Flood Maps.

Faculty of Public Health and Natural England (2010). Great Outdoors: How our Natural Health Service Uses Green Space to Improve Well-being.

Health Protection Agency (2008). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK.

Natural England (2011). Green Space Access, Green Space Use, Physical Activity and Overweight.

UKCIP (formerly UK Climate Impacts Programme)

West Midlands Public Health Observatory (2010). Excess Winter Deaths (EWD) in England.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2005). Air quality guidelines - global update 2005.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2008). The Public Health Significance of Urban Pests.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2011a). Air quality and health - Fact sheet 313.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2011). Burden of disease from environmental noise.