Clean Air Day is the UK's largest air pollution campaign, which was started in 2017 by Global Action Plan. The award winning annual campaign works to improve public understanding and awareness of both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as the impact it has on our health.
In 2019 more than 3,700 organisations took part in more than 614 events across the UK, alongside hundreds of thousands of individuals. Through the campaign more than 2000 media items and 45,000 social media posts were generated to bring awareness to the issue.
As the Covid pandemic continues, there is a natural focus on our health and wellbeing with a particular emphasis on our lungs. ‘Dirty Air’ has a significant yet invisible impact on our health and wellbeing – as particles and gasses from the air enter our body, they can damage cells in different ways. All air pollution causes damage to our health, however the more pollution a person is exposed to the larger the risk. Beginning with cough, phlegm and heightened risk of bacterial pneumonia, extended exposure in the long term has been proven to increase risk of lung cancer, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease such as furring of the arteries.
"Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019."UN SDG 13
The UN sustainable development goal 13 ‘Climate Action’ is critical not only for the sustainability of our planet but also human health. With global CO2 emissions having increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990, having grown more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades it is vital to turn the tide and make positive changes. With air pollution as one of the leading risk factors for death, attributed to 5 million deaths per year according to Our World In Data; without this change the health of our population could be in severe danger.
As a result of the travel bans and economic slow down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to drop by about 6 per cent in 2020, however as this news article from the UN states “a fall in Covid linked carbon emissions won’t halt climate change”. During the summer months as economic action restarted, post lockdown, we saw a significant increase in the amount of traffic taking to the roads again. While the decreased predicted figures are a positive sign for our climate impact moving forwards, it is clear this is a temporary adjustment in the figures. Without positive and permanent change, reducing the air pollution will not be an achievable goal.
Being able to understand our own personal contribution to air pollution is the first step towards being able to reduce it.”Larissa Lockwood, Director of Clean Air, Global Action Plan
To take action we need to:
- Consider long term changes to our working habits and sustainable working from home solutions
- Find sustainable commuting methods
- Increase our awareness of air pollution and its risks
As individuals we can take the following practical steps:
- Work from home as a permanent solution or reduce the amount of days required in the office if possible
- Consider better commuting options such as walking and cycling, or car sharing and public transport when safe to do so
- Become aware of our impact by using tools like the new Clean Air Day calculator
- Use low chemical cleaning products and non aerosol based products
- Help share the awareness and educate yourself and others on the topic of air pollution, risks and actions we can take