Air pollution is linked to 1 in 6 deaths globally. In the UK, The Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health estimated that air pollution is linked to up to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. These stats are shocking, especially when you consider that air pollution affects your health in numerous ways, including:
• Slowing physical and mental development in children and cognition in adults
• Increasing the chance of getting type 2 diabetes
• Increasing the potential for heart disease and stroke
• Preventing normal lung development in children
• Links to lung cancer and asthma
This highlights the need for the government to make environmental reform a top priority.
A new Clean Air Act for the UK post-Brexit provides the potential for the UK to take an exemplary and bespoke stance on air quality legislation.
However, local authorities who are already underfunded and understaffed have been tasked with dealing with tackling the air pollution figures. DeSmog UK has noted that the local authorities are not well equipped to deal with such a massive project and that the government needs to make it more of a priority.
After the snap General Election and following vote to leave the EU, there has been a deluge of voices concerned that environmental policy will be hugely diluted post-Brexit.
This is due to a number of reasons:
• The fear that the government will not cooperate with neighbouring EU post-Brexit.
• That the UK just does not have the collective power of the EU behind it for enforcing change.
• That there will be a lack of willpower from the UK to ensure high standards across the UK post-Brexit.
Greener UK, which represents 13 environmental groups including WWF and the Green Alliance, are amongst those voicing serious concern in an attempt to realign Brexit ministers priorities.
Lord Deben, Conservative former environment secretary, added to the concern saying it was ‘barmy’ to walk away from the collective force of the EU, as the UK would lose the power to shape decisions.
The government had begun to address air pollution by launching the UK Air Quality Plan before the Brexit decision. They also announced a goal to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 to tackle air pollution on the road. Alongside this, British Rail Minister Jo Johnson has just announced plans for all diesel-only trains to be taken off the tracks by 2040.
All the rhetoric is favourable, but it is a fact that 80-90% of UK environmental legislation comes from the EU. The EU currently checks and enforces the UK’s legal responsibility for tackling air quality, so the concern is that post-Brexit, who will hold the UK government to account?
There are also fears that as the process of transferring all the EU laws into UK law is an immense and extremely complicated job, the very nature of the task will mean that key environmental protectors will be list during the rollover.
What can we do in changing our lifestyle to help?
Every time we drive our car, use our heating or air conditioning, or even style our hair, we make choices that can contribute towards air pollution.
It is vital that changes are made in legislation to support our environment post-Brexit, but there are also lifestyle changes that we can make to improve air quality:
• Install air quality units
You can buy air quality units and bring plants that naturally purify the air into your home (such as spider plants)
• Use your smartphone to avoid high pollution times
• CityAir tells you when there is a high level of air pollution
• CleanSpace Air Pollution app allows you to check air pollution inside and outside
• Plume Air Report means you can plan your activities around air pollution levels
Become more aware in the home
• Run dishwashers and clothes washers when full
• Use environmentally friendly cleaning products
• Save energy – remember to turn off lights, computers, and electric appliances
• Choose energy efficient light bulbs and appliances
The recent shocking statistics in the media have led us to a new awareness of the dangers of air pollution and the need to protect our air with some powerful legislation.
Let’s hope that the ministers keep their promise on keeping the momentum going to continue to fight air pollution post-Brexit. There are certainly changes that we can all make in our lifestyle to help.