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Double Standard Should Have Workers Fuming

A pollution double standard that means workers can be permanently exposed to levels of fumes several times the public safety limit has been highlighted by concerns raised at Edinburgh's Waverley train station.

Click to go to Sunday Herald websiteThe Sunday Herald reported last week that exhaust fumes from trains and taxis, coupled with toxic dust kicked up by construction works, are endangering the health of commuters, tourists and workers - particularly those with asthma, lung or heart conditions.

Network Rail commissioned consultants to monitor the station continually for three weeks in October and November. Their report found average levels of nitrogen dioxide varying from 205 to 304 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the annual average 'air quality standard' of 40 required by European law.

According to experts, the levels to which many passengers were exposed at peak times would be much higher than another legal limit of 200 micrograms per cubic metre, set for one hour's exposure. Scientists also found high levels of tiny particles known as PM10s, which inflame lung tissue and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

They were nearly twice as high as the air quality standard, and up to 10 times higher than in nearby streets. Dr Sean Semple, an air pollution expert from the University of Aberdeen, said the levels 'may breach internationally-agreed air quality standards. Pollution levels measured within the station could pose risks to people with asthma or heart and lung conditions.

The risks need to be further investigated, and Network Rail should continue to do what it can to minimise pollution particularly from diesel engines within the station.' But he added: 'While the concentrations of pollutants are well within the workplace exposure limits that apply in the UK, Network Rail's data show that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are higher than the Air Quality Standards for public spaces.' This means the public are protected by a much tighter standard, despite spending only short periods in the heavily polluted station.

Rail workers and concourse staff are exposed all day, every working day.

Source: TUC Risks / Sunday Herald

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