Air Pollution and Health

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how does air pollution impact health?

Air pollution plays a pivotal role in the process of climate change. Outdoors, the range of pollutants we are exposed to are multiple and many of these come from vehicles. These pollutants include particulates (mostly from diesel engines), nitrogen oxides (exhaust gases), and ozone (from chemical reactions in the atmosphere). Many of the changes that would decrease the prevalence of air pollution and protect our health, would also help slow down the process of global warming.

The impacts of air pollution on health are extensive, with outdoor air pollution contributing to 40,000 deaths per year in the UK. There are also proven links between air pollution and cancer, asthma, heart disease, obesity and strokes (RCPCH).

Although air pollution is harmful to everyone, some people suffer more from air pollution, making air pollution also an issue of inequality. These reasons include (RCPCH):

  • Live, go to school, or work near busy roads.
  • Live in deprived areas; often poorer households are located in inner city areas with higher pollution levels.
  • Have existing medical conditions, or are more vulnerable because of their age. Harm to children and babies will have impacts into the future.

what is already being done to tACKLE AIR POLLUTION?

In 2015, the government announced that they would phase out coal-fired power stations by 2025 and restrict their use by 2023, which is a major step forward. The UK outperformed on its second carbon budget (31% reduction by 2017) and this was mainly due to a decrease in the use of coal for electricity generation. However, the Clean Growth Strategy, published by the government in October 2017 highlights that these out-performances will be ‘carried over’ to future targets which the UK is not on track to meet. You can talk to your MP about your concern as by carrying forward these targets, the UK risks falling behind on carbon emission reductions, and losing out on the many benefits of moving towards a low carbon economy.

The Government has also announced that it will end the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. This is an important step forward but on its own large challenges will still remain.

Click here to learn more about what you can ask of your MP relating to climate change and health.


Date of Publication: 10.05.2018