Filling in this quick questionnaire can help get the government moving on air pollution

Asthma + Lung UK is calling on everyone to fill in a quick questionnaire to get the government to move more quickly on tackling air pollution.

The government has recently proposed new air pollution targets which would bring our legal limits in line with the 2005 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines by 2040.

Tiny particles of dust and dirt in the air are known as PM2.5 (Fine Particulate Matter) and although they can’t be seen, when breathed in they can get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream. It is one of the most dangerous pollutants for human health. There is no safe level of this to breathe in.

The government wants to set a PM2.5 target of 10 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) to be met across England by 2040. The proposed target does not deliver the change we need quickly enough.

Asthma + Lung UK believe that 2040 is simply not fast enough and they are calling on the government to achieve this target by 2030.

Research has shown that we can reach the suggested target by then, so setting a date of 2040 makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

In addition to the health benefits, this could be worth more than £3bn a year economically

Sarah Woolnough Sarah Woolnough Chief Executive of Asthma + Lung UK

It makes no sense

We should not have to wait 18 years for safer targets, leaving another generation to breathe dirty air.

We need to reduce air pollution levels as quickly as possible. It is linked to 36,000 deaths per year, and costs the NHS up to £20bn.

Hitting the target by 2030 would see an average of 388,000 fewer days of asthma symptoms flare ups a year in children; a fall in cases of coronary heart disease of over 3,000 cases per year, and a rise in average life expectancy of 9-10 weeks across those born in 2018.

In addition to this, the total economic benefits of reaching this target by 2030, could be worth up to more than £3bn per year, so it makes sense both economically and for health and wellbeing of the nation.

Everyone has the right to breathe clean air! But in almost every area of the UK people are exposed to toxic levels of air pollution.

What is PM2.5?

Fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, is dangerous to all our health. It gets into our lungs and can damage every organ in the body. For those who are more vulnerable – children, pregnant women, older people and those living with lung conditions – simply going outside can lead to hospital.

The World Health Organization has recommended that every country across the world should be aiming for a target that is half the level that the government is proposing in order to protect public health as quickly as possible.

Asthma + Lung UK therefore disagree with the government’s proposed PM2.5 concentration target.

Setting the deadline for reaching 10µg/m3 by 2030 at the latest would provide us with the opportunity to further reduce levels of air pollution after the 2030 deadline so that we can make sure they are in line with the levels recommended by WHO.

Achieving this target by 2030, rather than 2040, would see an average of 388,000 fewer days of asthma symptoms flare ups a year in children; a fall in cases of coronary heart disease of over 3,000 cases per year, and a rise in average life expectancy of 9-10 weeks across those born in 2018.

The total economic benefits of reaching this target by 2030, is estimated to be worth up to more than £3bn per year.

Exposure reduction

The government is also proposing to set a Population Exposure Reduction Target which will see a 35% reduction in population exposure by 2040 (compared to a base year of 2018).

Simply put, this means that by 2040, everywhere will be, on average, 35% less polluted than it was in 2018.

Even if achieved, air pollution hotspots would remain far too high in some areas whilst others that already enjoy cleaner air would become less polluted still.

This target could only work alongside a more ambitious concentration reduction target.

At Asthma and Lung UK we disagree with the level of ambition proposed for the population exposure reduction target because this target would do nothing to protect children from the fumes from main roads near homes, schools or work during busy periods when air pollution is at its peak.

On its own, this kind of target would allow dangerous pollution hotspots to remain in some areas whilst others enjoy cleaner air. This target could only be fair alongside a reduction in overall PM2.5 that meets World Health Organisation Targets as soon as possible.

Increase monitoring

We also do not currently have enough monitors to understand how air pollution is reducing within each village, town or city. To make sure that this reduction target is effective, we need to see a major increase in air pollution monitoring.

The government’s proposed response is simply not good enough. ‍We need to send a message to the government; we need clean air NOW!

That’s why Asthma and Lung UK are calling on everyone to complete a simple questionnaire responding to the UK Government’s official consultation on setting new air pollution targets for England under the Environment Act 2021.

You can fill in the consultation questionnaire by clicking on this link.

Sarah Woolnough is Chief Executive of Asthma + Lung UK