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Clean Air Day And The Impacts Of Air Pollution

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Clean Air Day And The Impacts Of Air Pollution

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jun 18, 2018

Clean Air Day (21 June 2018) is an important event and has been put forward for debate in Parliament by MP, Helen Hayes. She proposed that the day should be both acknowledged and funded for its work in providing the public with independent, science-driven information and advice on issues of clean air and pollution.

Chris Large, a Senior Partner at Global Action Plan, the group behind Clean Air Day, said, "It is marvellous to see MPs recognising the British public's concerns about air quality and the important role of the Clean Air Day campaign in providing public guidance to tackle air pollution. We look forward to a response from the government and hope that an even bigger Clean Air Day 2018, with Government financial support, is the outcome."

There’s no doubt that the public is becoming more concerned about air quality, particularly as the health impacts of air pollution become more widely known.

Potential health impacts of air pollution

Air pollution is not a new problem. It’s been around for at least as long as modern industrial processes, which has given scientists plenty of opportunities to study the health impacts of exposure to polluted air. Many studies have linked a long list of illnesses and health conditions to air pollution, and the people behind Clean Air Day highlight a few, including:

  • Exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. It is estimated to contribute to around one in 13 cases in the UK.
  • Air pollution has also been linked to higher risks of bladder cancer.
  • Long-term exposure can affect the heart and blood vessels. Air pollution has been linked to several cardiovascular conditions, including furring of the arteries.
  • Air pollution increases the risks of premature death from cardiac (heart) and respiratory (breathing) causes, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Air pollution could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It also says that people living near busy roads are more likely to suffer from dementia, but adds that more research is needed to check whether this s the primary cause is air pollution or another factor.

A new study links air pollution and cot death

New research, has also found a possible link between some pollutants and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Birmingham, looked at over 200 cases that occurred in the West Midlands between 1996 and 2006. It compared the levels of air pollution recorded the day before each death to levels recorded on a previous ‘reference day’. The research found “evidence suggesting an association between SIDS and exposure to larger particulate matter (airborne pollutants) called PM10, as well as nitrous dioxide (NO2)”.

These pollutants are associated with traffic fumes and certain industrial processes, and researchers found that babies and young children could be particularly vulnerable. It is important to be proactive in regards to your indoor air quality, and finding a reputable company to install the right ventilation product in your home is key.

Lead author, Dr Ian Litchfield, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, said, “Certain groups of the population are more vulnerable to ambient air pollution than others and children figure predominantly among them due to the fragility of their immune system and the ratio of their lung capacity to their size. Our study has highlighted that more research needs to be carried out to better understand the effects of air pollution on child health, while government policy needs to bring about change with increasing urgency.”

Indoor air pollution can be as bad

Most studies on the health impact of air pollution concentrate on the outdoor environment but research published in the journal Science of the Total Environment made light of the harmful effects indoor pollution can have on human health.

Dr Prashant Kumar of the University of Surrey and founding director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), said, “When we think of the term ‘air pollution’ we tend to think of car exhausts or factory fumes expelling grey smoke. However, there are actually various sources of pollution that have a negative effect on air quality, many of which are found inside our homes and offices. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside.”