Monday 9th March 2020: last week Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, spoke at a parliamentary reception hosted by the British Lung Foundation in Westminster. There he met with healthcare professionals and individuals representing the 12 million people in the UK living with a lung condition, who are most at risk from the acute effects of poor air quality.
Air pollution has been formally recognised as a public health emergency by NHS England, and it is linked to a wide range of health problems including lung disease, stroke and cancer. Babies in the womb, children and those with a lung condition such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) are most at risk.
The Environment Bill as drafted allows DEFRA to wait until 2022 to set more robust targets meaning people will have to wait years for any significant improvements.
The British Lung Foundation is urging the government to bring forward the deadline, using the existing World Health Organizations guidelines, to set world-leading targets within the Environment Bill.
In addition to setting stringent air pollution targets, The British Lung Foundation are also calling on the government to:
- Provide accessible and robust health information and alerts backed up by a national public health campaign warning of the harm caused by air pollution.
- Ensure the rapid implementation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) across the UK’s most polluted areas, restricting use of the dirtiest vehicles.
- Provide significant investment in active and public transport to reduce overall vehicle use.
- Implement tailored interventions around schools and nurseries in order to protect children. Over 2,000 schools in the UK are in areas with illegal levels of toxic air.
- Implement interventions around healthcare centres and nursing homes where PM2.5 levels breach WHO guidelines
Geraint Davies MP said:
“The 102 annual deaths in Swansea attributed to air pollution by Public Health England shows why the government must take immediate action to reduce air pollution. In Swansea the level of dangerous fine particulate matter, known as (PM2.5), is measured at 13 micrograms per cubic metre a year, above the World Health Organisations (WHO) annual guideline of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.
“As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution I have been working with a cross-party group of MPs to enforce WHO guideline limits for pollution in the Environment Bill and I welcome this important campaign by British Lung Foundation.
“The government must follow the lead of the Welsh government which had plans for a Clean Air Act for Wales and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure people in Swansea can breathe healthy air.”
Zak Bond, Policy Officer at The British Lung Foundation, said:
“Air pollution is bad for everybody but disproportionately affects the 1 in 5 people living in the UK who have an existing lung condition. People with conditions such as asthma or COPD are at high risk of symptom flare-ups and potential hospitalisation from inhaling dirty air.
It’s unacceptable that we are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution throughout the UK day in and day out. The government must act now to tackle the public health crisis facing the NHS and the country by using the Environment Bill as an opportunity to be world leaders in the fight for clean air. We urge them to set strict targets on PM2.5 in line with WHO guidelines, which must be met by 2030 at the latest.”