ENVIRONMENTALISTS say council chiefs have finally caught up by designating three areas of Dacorum as air pollution hotspots.
Dacorum Environmental Forum says it highlighted the areas 20 years ago as being blighted by traffic smog but only now have they been officially recognised.
A meeting of Dacorum Borough Council’s cabinet last week agreed to set up Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) at Lawn Lane in Hemel Hempstead, London Road in Apsley and High Street in Northchurch.
The move has been prompted by research that shows the roads breach government standards for levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by vehicle engines.
A report to councillors says: “Each of the proposed AQMAs has a street canyon effect where the presence of numerous buildings close to the highway prevent free circulation of air and traps pollutants at ground level.”
At Lawn Lane last year a level of 62 microgrammes per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide was detected, against a standard of 40 microgrammes. In Apsley the level was 54 microgrammes and at High Street in Northchurch the level was 45 microgrammes.
Leader of the council Andrew Williams said: “The three sites are very heavily trafficked.”
A consultation will now take place with residents and businesses in the affected areas and the council will then draw up an action plan.
“Examples of the action plan objectives could include the introduction of smoke control areas and revised traffic management schemes,” the report says.
Phil Pennington, chairman of Dacorum Environmental Forum, said: “We highlighted it nearly 20 years ago.
“Health-wise it’s worrying. We know for a fact there are high instances of asthma coming in the last 20 years. That is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
“Clean air is a right we all should have.
“We know where it comes from – mostly it’s an indication of our use of vehicles. We all like cars and we all like driving.”
The Environment Agency’s website says: “Excessive exposure to nitrogen oxides may affect the blood, liver, lung and spleen.”