COLUMN: Help to make the air that we breathe cleaner and healthier

Clean Air Day.
Clean Air Day.

Air pollution is real and harms the health of millions. But there are lots of simple things we can do to improve air quality and look after our own, and other people’s, health.

can do to improve air quality and look after our own, and other people’s, health.

June 21 is Clean Air Day - a chance to find out more about air pollution, share information with friends and colleagues, and help make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.

Across the UK, air pollution is having a major impact on our health, with poor air quality contributing to 50,000 deaths every year in the UK.

Clean Air Day is all about making small changes that can improve the quality of the air that we all breathe.

Whether it’s leaving the car at home for the day, walking the kids to school or making longer term changes, there’s lots that we can be doing to improve our air.

But why is it so important to tackle air pollution? Here’s just a few reasons:

l Air pollution increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and asthma attacks.

l Drivers can be exposed to nine times more air pollution than cyclists because cars gather pollution from the vehicle in front.

l Air pollution increases the risk of getting lung cancer and contributes to roughly 1 in 13 cases of the disease.

l Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. Air pollution is linked to premature births, low birth weight, impaired lung development, asthma and increased hospital admissions.

l Most of the pollutants that damage our health are too small to see, and they get through the gaps in simple fabric face masks

We all need to be making changes to improve the air we breathe. Some top tips include:

Use your feet, take to the street. Walk, cycle, bus, tube or tram. However you like to travel, leave your car at home and take to the streets.

Switch your engine off when stationary. By turning off your car engine whenever you’re not moving – and it’s safe to do so – you’ll help to make the air cleaner for you, other drivers and pedestrians.

Drive into the future. More than 80,000 people bought low polluting cars in 2016. When you upgrade your car, why not think about an electric, hybrid or LPG model.

Save your log-burner for the bleak midwinter. We all love wood-burning stoves. But burning wood produces lots of pollutants. To minimise pollution buy a Defra-approved stove, use authorised fuel and only light it when you really have to.

You can download toolkits, get advice on how to reduce pollution and find out more about National Clean Air day at www.cleanairday.org.uk

l Colleen Marples is public health communications officer with Derbyshire County Council.