1 in 3 unaware of air pollution risks and how to combat them

Working people are unnecessarily exposing themselves to higher levels of air pollution, organisers of the first ever national Clean Air Day in the UK have said.

Global Action Plan, the NGO organiser of the event held on 15 June, said they discovered ‘alarming misconceptions’ from their survey which polled 2,000 adults on their understanding of harmful effects of air pollution.

Over a third (37%) were unaware air pollution is higher when walking on a main road compared to walking on a side street.

Whereas research released this week from King’s College London and Cross River Partnership found that commuters could cut their pollution exposure by half if they avoided busy roads.

Other misconceptions GAP discovered were that while 72% of those they asked knew that air pollution affects the lungs, three out of four were unaware of the extent of the impact that air pollution can have on the heart.

Citing a 2016 report from the World Health Organisation, 28% of premature deaths from outdoor pollution are respiratory, with 72% of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution globally seen in the form of stroke and heart disease.

Other findings exposed a lack of awareness that driving exposes people to the most air pollution. An experiment conducted by King’s College London showed that a driver was exposed to nine times more pollution compared to a cyclist taking the exact same route

GAP say that employers should encourage people traveling to work to cut their exposure by choosing cycling or walking.

Chris Large, Senior Partner, Global Action Plan told Safety Management: “Organisations can act now to reduce the pollution that they cause or expose their employees, residents, patients, pupils or customers to. 

"The provision of showers, onsite cycle surgeries, secure parking and free breakfasts for cyclists can encourage cycling. Flexible working policies for office-based organisations can reduce traffic on the roads and improve staff happiness. To protect the health of colleagues, the management team could sign off on a wellbeing plan that includes educating staff on how to best avoid the health issues associated with air pollution.”

Free guides and toolkits on how to protect yourself and reduce local pollution levels available from https://www.cleanairday.org.uk/

Global Action Plan partnered with charities the British Lung Foundation and representatives of medical associations to bring expert advice to workplaces and communities for the first Clean Air day.

Events yesterday took place in over 100 towns and cities across the UK, to raise awareness and engage people in the issues and advice surrounding air pollution.