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Clean Air Day, being marked today, is an opportunity to improve public understanding of air pollution, build awareness of how air pollution affects our health and explain the actions we can all take to tackle air pollution, helping to protect the environment and our health.

See our short (90 second) animated video explainer on our Time to Breathe campaign, which is calling for outdoor workers to be protected from the dangers of air pollution. The video makes clear why reducing exposure to toxic air has never been so urgent.

British Safety Council is calling for three key changes:

  1. For improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK
  2. For the UK to adopt legal limits, using as a minimum standard, World Health Organisation limits for outdoor workers’ exposure to the most dangerous air pollutants – PM2.5, PM10, Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone. This is because for the UK’s outdoor workers the street is their workplace
  3. For substantially more research into the effects of exposure to ambient air pollution on outdoor workers.

Air pollution is a silent, invisible killer that is largely being ignored. But it is preventable. While toxic air is potentially harmful to everyone, the risk of exposure is greater for outdoor workers, for whom the street is their workplace. This means ambient air pollution must be fully recognised as the occupational health issue it is. It causes 40,000 early deaths a year and costs the UK economy a staggering £20 billion annually.

For many outdoor workers in the UK, the shocking reality is that drawing breath during their working day is shortening their life. For them, ambient air pollution has turned the simple, human act of breathing into a deadly occupational hazard. This forgotten army of outdoor workers are the people who deliver our letters and online shopping, help our children to cross the road, empty our bins, clean our streets, drive public transport, maintain our essential services, police our traffic or work on or near busy roads. They deserve better protection

Unsafe air is not something society should simply accept. The benefits of pollution control far outweigh the costs. No one should be made ill by the job that they do.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, commented:

“Air pollution is the UK’s largest environmental health risk, greater than smoking and obesity. Indeed, the links between air pollution and illness are increasing. Therefore, we need better air pollution policies for a longer and healthier life.

We are calling on policymakers, and regulators to protect outdoor workers from the dangers of air pollution. Surely outdoor workers deserve the same legal protections as those on the factory floor or in offices. Let’s make 2021 the year we help Britain’s outdoor workers breathe easy at last.”