To mark Clean Air Day, we renew our call for Government to adopt WHO air quality guidelines

20 June 2018        

Category: Survival and support

As today marks national Clean Air Day, we are renewing our call for Government to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines to protect the UK public from the negative effects of air pollution.

a picture showing the view down the river thames with a haze

Shocking findings

New research by Global Action Plan found that primary and nursery school children were being exposed to 30% more particulate pollution compared to adults when walking along busy roads, due to their closer proximity to vehicle exhaust fumes. The research found that pollution levels from petrol and diesel vehicles were 2.5 times lower for children walking along quiet roads.

For those 50% of children being driven to school, the situation is in fact worse. They are exposed to double the pollution inside a vehicle compared to those walking on busy streets.

New legislation needed

Commenting on the findings our Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, said:

“It’s of grave concern that thousands of children could be putting their health at risk simply by walking to school. Our research has shown that exposure to high levels of air pollution is extremely damaging to cardiovascular health, and young people are not immune to this.

“While walking along quieter roads may help an individual, the UK needs tighter air pollution limits to prevent the detrimental impact toxic pollutants have on the public’s health. Adopting the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines into national legislation is a crucial first step in achieving this.”

Evidence of the adverse effects of outdoor air pollution on health has grown over the last 10 years. It is known to increase individuals risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the health effects of indoor air pollution are far less well known.

Further research needed

Today, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have announced that the potentially harmful impact of indoor air pollution on children is to be the subject of a major study for the first time in the UK. We are one of the organisations that have pledged funding for the continuation of this project.

Discussing the necessity of this review John Maingay, our Director of Policy & Public Affairs, said:

“Globally, almost 6 in 10 deaths linked to outdoor air pollution are caused by a heart attack or stroke. Our research has already revealed the devastating impact of outdoor air pollution on heart health, but we now need to understand the potential effects of indoor air pollution.

“This urgently-needed review will uncover the true scale of the problem and how best we can protect our children from the adverse effects on their heart and circulatory health."

Find out more about our air pollution work