Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution, is on Thursday 16 June 2022.
The theme of Clean Air Day this year is focussed on raising awareness that air pollution impacts our health from our first breath to our last and can affect every organ in the body.
Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK and it is the biggest environmental threat to our health, no matter who you are or where you live.
Whilst air pollution can be harmful throughout life and across all age groups, some people are more affected, perhaps because they are exposed to higher levels of air pollution in their day to day lives, live in polluted areas, or are more susceptible to air pollution related health issues (the young, older people, pregnant women).
Air pollution affects your body in lots of ways. It can increase the risk of developing some health problems and can make existing health problems worse:
- When we breathe polluted air, it can inflame the lining of our lungs and move into our bloodstream ending up in the heart and brain.
- Air pollution can damage the lungs, trigger asthma, increase blood pressure and increase lung and heart related hospital admissions and deaths.
- Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause heart and lung conditions such as heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leading to reduced life expectancy.
- There is emerging evidence on the link between air pollution and brain functions, such as memory, and increased risk of dementia.
There are simple steps we can all take to help us cut down on the pollution we cause such as:
- Walk, cycle and scoot more. Walking short distance trips instead of driving has many positive benefits for your health and the environment. In addition to improving local air quality walking is an easy and accessible way to improve physical and mental health and a 20-minute walk can reduce the risk of a number of preventable health conditions, including certain cancers, depression, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- Use our network of ultra-low emission buses to get around York rather than driving. The majority of our Park and Ride services now operate using electric buses and we have recently secured funding to upgrade other bus services to electric.
- If you do have to drive, make sure you switch your engine off when you’re stationary and parked. Consider using zero emission electric vehicles where you can. York has a large network of publicly accessible charging points that can be used on a pay as you go basis.
- If you have alternative heating options during colder months, avoid burning solid fuels. If you rely on wood for your heating, use ‘ready to burn’ materials (e.g. dry wood or approved manufactured solid fuels). Avoid burning garden waste whenever possible, as it produces smoke – especially if that waste is green or damp.
Any reductions in air pollution that we make will lead to health improvements for us and our local communities.
For Clean Air Day this year, City of York Council are specifically encouraging people to:
- Raise awareness and talk to someone about the harms of air pollution and how it impacts health:
- There is lots of information about air pollution and health impacts on the Clean Air Hub https://www.cleanairhub.org.uk/
- Free resources to support Clean Air Day for schools, businesses and healthcare services are available on the Action for Clean Air website https://www.actionforcleanair.org.uk/
- Pledge to walk (or cycle) those short distance trips and leave the car at home, where you can. We would encourage everyone to ask local and national decision makers for what would make it easier for you to walk (or cycle) more.
- The council’s iTravel York website https://www.itravelyork.info/walk contains lots of ideas for walking more, lists groups in and around York that organise led walks and provides information for schools about how to increase walking on the school run
- CYC have produced a series of new cycle route videos, many of which are off road and are low-pollution routes.
- Research has shown that walking fuels brainpower and that moving was better than sitting for creative thinking; walking can be good for some types of meetings.