Sources and health impacts of construction generated pollution
Construction sites can generate and emit many different types of pollution but the main concerns for human health is the 'dust' or ultra fine particulate matter (PM) and a gas called nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
On construction sites these pollutants are produced by the diesel engines in offroad machinery and static engines such as power generators (collectively known as non-road mobile machinery' or NRMM) as well as dust being mechanically generated from activities such as demolition and earthworks. This harmful dust is often 'tracked out' onto the public roads on the wheels of vehicles leaving the site and can then be resuspended back into the air that we breathe and remain there for many days or even weeks.
The health impacts of these pollutants can include:
- Respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and mortality as well as lung cancer
- Reduced lung function (especially in children)
- There are also very strong links to early onset dementia and autism
The fine particulate matter in diesel engine exhaust is classed as being carcinogenic to humans and in 2004 the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised that there is no evidence of a safe level of PM exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects could occur.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has estimated that 9,500 premature deaths in London during 2010 were attributable to exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in the air.