Government sleepwalking into public health crisis

The Global Action Plan charity has issued a strong call to action to government regarding a lack of funding for information on air pollution.

Findings released by Clean Air Day has revealed that people respond well when given accurate information and the means to do something about air pollution. However, unless the government commits to an information campaign to match the scale of the problem there is unlikely to be any success. Health experts are therefore calling for an air pollution awareness drive to match the scale of heart, cancer and anti-smoking campaigns.

According to the charity, the Department of Health, Public Health England, Defra or any other national body have no current plans to run an immediate national public information campaign on air quality or any plans to educate school children and parents on how to limit the extent to which air pollution affects their health.

Chris Large, senior partner at Global Action Plan, said: “The government knows that children could stop breathing the most dirty air with simple changes to their routine, but government departments cannot give this basic health advice due to lack of funding. When we have needed to fund previous health campaigns such as smoking, drink driving and healthy eating, the government has found the money. It’s time that funding was found to educate the millions of people who live in areas of unsafe air pollution.
“Air pollution is an urgent public health issue that’s up there with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To properly deal with it we need an ambitious and sustained public health campaign on a similar scale to no-smoking.”

Following the annual Clean Air Day campaign in June, national polling showed more awareness of air pollution following Clean Air Day, including awareness of the dangers of indoor air pollution following the campaign rising by 12 per cent to 74 per cent of respondents and the encouragement that 22 per cent chose to cycle or walk a route they had previously driven, compared to 16 per cent before the campaign.