Today is Clean Air Day, a chance to acknowledge the impact of air pollution on our health, and that of our planet, as well as considering the impact it could have on our future. We all have a part to play in reducing air pollution and today is a real opportunity to take action.
This year, the Clean Air Day campaign – which is led by Global Action Plan – is focussing on protecting our children’s health. That’s something Roy Castle was very passionate about when campaigning for a greater awareness of lung cancer. While fundraising for the UK’s first lung cancer research centre on the Tour of Hope, he said:
It’s for our children and our children’s children.
Roy was passionate about raising awareness of lung cancer to prevent future generations from being affected by the disease.
Air pollution is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year. You may be surprised to find out that around 8% (3,600) of all lung cancer cases diagnosed are caused by contaminated air.
A breath of fresh air
Sadly, we are all aware of the devastation the Covid-19 pandemic caused.
One positive that we can take from that year is the effect it has had on air pollution levels across the world. During the height of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions meant that significantly fewer people were traveling, resulting in the smog clearing in busy cities, the air around us appearing cleaner, and waterways looking visibly clearer.
The UK witnessed air pollution falling to the lowest levels since records began, and in April this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed just how significantly pollutant levels had fallen:
- – The UKs average level of nitrogen dioxide was at 23 micrograms per cubic metre in 2020. This toxic gas produced from diesel vehicles was first recorded in 1997 at 60 micrograms per cubic metre.
- – Levels of PM2.5 – the sooty microscopic particles that are produced by vehicles and thought to cause lung cancer – dropped to their lowest point since records began in 2009.
However, as lockdown restrictions started to ease and we all ventured that bit further than the local park, air pollution levels started to rise again, closer to pre-pandemic levels.
As we slowly emerge from the pandemic and adjust to the ‘new normal’, we all have the power to make small changes that will make a huge impact on levels of air pollution which, in turn, could help prevent several lung cancer cases in future generations.
This is something that Oxford City Council are hoping to do. After recognising a 29% reduction in air pollutant levels during the pandemic, the city has made plans to launch Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone this August.
The Oxfordshire region are exploring many ways they can move forward to the cleanest air possible. They recently outlined plans in to become the country’s first smoke free region by 2025.
What you can do to tackle air pollution
Now is the time to tell your friends that you are dedicated to improving air quality and helping reduce the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer.
You could do anything from walking or cycling to your local shop instead of driving, to going on epic bike rides once a month. You could swap your driving shoes for comfortable walking shoes to get you from A to B. Changing a trip in the car to cycling or walking instead, even once or twice a week, will make a real impact; better for our environment and better for you too!
If we all make small adjustments to our daily lives, it can make a big difference to air pollutant levels which in turn will make a huge difference for our children, and our children’s children, just as Roy wanted.
If you need some inspiration to get out in your walking boots or back on your bike, we have a range of challenges to choose from that will motivate you to do all you can to tackle air pollution.