William Eichler 29 October 2018

Whitehall’s response to air pollution ‘lacks ambition’

Whitehall’s response to air pollution ‘lacks ambition’ image

Health bodies have criticised the Government’s approach to pollution and called for legally enforced air standards to ensure cleaner air across the UK.

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), the body of UK health professionals advocating for action on climate change to protect public health, has called for the ‘biggest shake up’ in air quality legislation since the middle of the last century.

The UKHACC wants a new Clean Air Act, governed by an independent statutory body, with legally enforced air standards. The first time a Clean Air Act was implemented was in 1956.

It has also recommended the creation of an advisory group to advise the Government on air pollution.

Air pollution contributes to an estimated 40,000 deaths each year in the UK and costs the economy an estimated £22bn.

‘The UK’s dirty air crisis has gone on too long, inflicting a large cost on our health, with children particularly vulnerable. To date, the Government’s response has been too slow and lacked ambition,’ said Laurie Laybourn-Langton, director of the UKHACC.

‘Today, UK health professionals have set out a policy agenda that is sufficient to deal with the scale of the problem, ensuring health is protected and air pollution levels are rapidly reduced, with support being given to those on the front line, including councils and the NHS.

‘Crucially, the actions needed to reduce air pollution are also those that improve our health anyway, including through helping more people cycle and walk instead of using cars.’

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Councils and their partners could do even more to contain the spread of COVID-19 if properly funded to undertake a robust localised system of testing, tracking and tracing, argues Professor Donna Hall.
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