Why Should You Care About Clean Air?

By Alison Holland

Published: July 21, 2018

Clean Air Day.

Clean Air Day events are being held across the country to increase awareness and encourage us all to take action to reduce air pollution. But why does it matter, how does it affect our children and what can we do – not just on Clean Air Day but any day?

Today’s the Day!

Clean Air Day is taking place today – 21st June 2018 – and is a great chance to raise awareness about air pollution, share information with friends and family and do your bit to make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone. But before we tell you about some of the events happening across the country, let’s talk about why clean air matters.

Why Does Clean Air Matter?

Air pollution is a real issue, not just in smog filled cities like New Delhi and Beijing but here in the UK too. It is causing harm to the health of millions across the country and leading to an estimated 40,000 deaths each year. But there are loads of simple things we can do to improve air quality and in turn help improve our own health and that of our loved ones.

What are the Health Impacts of Air Pollution?

The main concern centered around air pollution is the effect it has on our health. It can lead to a number of health issues; from the expected things like decline in lung function to things you might not expect like type 2 diabetes.

Evidence has been found to suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to:

  • Decline in lung function in adults – which can be a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Asthma
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Problems with brain development and cognition (thinking ability)
  • Cardiovascular diseases – conditions that can affect the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary heart disease
  • Cancer

Air Pollution and Children

Air pollution can have a larger effect on young children than it does on adults; as their lungs are still developing they are more vulnerable to dirty air. This vulnerability also applies to pregnant women; being exposed to air pollution during pregnancy can affect a baby’s lung development.

Lung problems can not only have an effect on health but also education due to absences from school.

What Causes Air Pollution

  • Sulphur dioxide – From the burning of fossil fuels; mostly power stations.
  • Nitrogen dioxide – Highest levels are found close to road traffic or indoor gas cookers.
  • Ozone (ground-level) – Caused by chemical reactions between natural, traffic and industrial pollution in strong sunlight.
  • Particulate matter – Solid particles or liquid droplets in the air, primarily from road traffic. Much too small to see!
  • Metals, including lead, mercury, arsenic – The iron and steel sectors dominate in lead emissions, while disposal of treated wood by burning is a source of arsenic.

What Can You Do?

The UK government is facing long running court proceedings due to its lack of success in cutting air pollution to legal levels. Whilst industry holds a large part of the responsibility for this, it is actually traffic that is one of the biggest causes of air pollution in the UK.

In the modern world we live in most of us have become accustomed to our cars, using them for journey we perhaps don’t need to. A simple but highly effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of air pollution you contribute is by walking or cycling these journeys instead. You not only contribute to cleaner air for everyone but will be working towards a healthier body for yourself by engaging in regular exercise.

Worst Air Quality is IN The Car

Air pollutants are not just affecting those outside your car when you drive but the passengers inside as well. It might surprise you to know that in a study by researchers at King’s College, London’s worst air quality was not on the roadside but in cars themselves. Vehicles that are close together suck in each others emissions meaning if you drive in heavy traffic during the school run you are exposing your children to much higher levels of air pollution. If you live within walking or cycling distance of your local school, encouraging your children to try an alternative mode of transport will greatly benefit their health.

Clean Air Day Events 2018

A number of Clean Air Events are being held all over the UK. They are a great way to both educate and excite your children and get them interested in cleaning up our air. To see what events are happening in your area check out the Clean Air Day website. If you can’t make it today or you are reading this later, use the resources they offer online as inspiration for your own Clean Air activities any time.

Southampton Guildhall Square – Clean Air Day Festival
If you’re in the Southampton area, head down to the Guildhall Square for a day of exciting attractions and activities – that are all completely free! Live bands, trying out the model lungs and test driving electric cars are just some of the activities taking place. The My Journey Hampshire website has lots of free downloadable Clean Air resources such as this ‘Engines off so we don’t cough’ No Idling poster which we love.

Manchester Exchange Square, 8am-6pm – Let’s Clear The Air
Discover how you can help tackle air pollution and improve your health in a series of events, including: electric vehicle display, bike for children and adults including electric and cargo bikes, cycle maintenance and more. Transport for Greater Manchester are also running free trams after 7pm today.

Edinburgh Summer Summit
Edinburgh is celebrating the UK’s Clean Air Day in the city centre by closing roads and holding a series of planned activities such as yoga on the Mound, a procession, and a series of talks from experts.