How does air pollution affect our health and what can we do about it?

On 13th June, Sustainable Merton staff and volunteers, representatives from other local groups and councillors, attended an informative and lively meeting on air pollution.

Around 50 of us heard an excellent overview of the research into air pollution, its effects on us all, and what we as a community and individuals can do about it.

Clean Air Merton, a local group which campaigns for action to clean up our air, organised and chaired the meeting.

The research- how harmful is air pollution?

Dr Ian Mudway, a researcher from Kings College London, explained that air pollution, having previously been a low-profile issue, is these days the subject of much concern and interest. He said that it shortens life expectancy, worsens existing health conditions, and degrades the quality of people’s lives.

Shockingly, in the UK, some forty thousand people die prematurely from air pollution every year. Ian stressed that it particularly affects the development of children, and that residents of less wealthy areas often suffer more as they tend to live in places that have greater exposure to air pollution.

Taking the Government to court to clean up our air

Andrea Lee, Healthy Air Campaigner from Client Earth, explained how her organisation has repeatedly taken the Government to court over its failure to keep air pollution below the legal limit. She explained that we have a “legal right to breathe clean air”, but that the UK is breaching the limit for nitrogen dioxide that should have been met in 2010. Only three out of 43 zones in the UK meet the target!

In short, the courts have agreed with Client Earth that the Government needs to tackle the problem effectively and without further delay.