The Environment Bill is an opportunity to address the public health crisis of dirty air. People should be able to go about their daily business with confidence that the air they are breathing is not damaging their health. Grahame Morris MP
Grahame Morris MP spoke at a parliamentary reception at Westminster hosted by the British Lung Foundation to hear first-hand about the devastating impact of air pollution to human health.
At the reception Grahame 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.
According to annual Public Health England figures 223 deaths in Durham were attributed to air pollution. Whilst these figures are shocking, they don’t capture the high numbers of people whose quality of life is negatively impacted by air pollution each day. The annual cost to society is estimated to be £23 billion due to the increased use of the NHS, social care and lost working days.
Formally recognised as a public health emergency by NHS England, air pollution 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.
By supporting the British Lung Foundation in calling for government to make the legally binding commitment to meet World Health Organization guideline levels for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by 2030, at the latest, Grahame is hoping to significantly reduce the risk of harm for the people of Easington.
Fine particulate matter is more than 30 times smaller than a human hair and can penetrate deep into the lungs, where it has the potential to enter the bloodstream. There are many sources of this type of pollution, with road traffic being a major contributor.
The Environment Bill as drafted allows DEFRA to wait until 2022 to set 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
Grahame Morris MP for Easington, said: “I am delighted to support the British Lung Foundation and highlight the impact dangerous levels of air pollution cause for people with underlying health conditions like asthma or COPD.
The Environment Bill is an opportunity to address this public health crisis of dirty air that can lead to the hospitalisation of patients with existing lung conditions. The UK should be a world leader in clean air standards, but so far, we are failing to meet the WHO baseline.
People should be able to go about their daily business with confidence that the air they are breathing is not damaging their health. We must press the government to deliver an urgent clean air strategy.”