Tackling air pollution "won't happen overnight" - RCPCH responds to report from Public Health England

A report from Public Health England recommends various ways to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. Air pollution remains the largest environmental risk to people's health in the UK, causing between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year.

In response to the report, Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

Poor air quality is dangerous for everyone’s health, and young children are especially at risk. It can cause poor lung development and make them vulnerable to life threatening conditions such as asthma. So the focus on children in this report is very welcome.

Tackling air pollution will not happen overnight, but as this report correctly suggests, individuals and local authorities have a crucial role to play. Families can reduce their own exposure to pollutants by using their own vehicles less and using public transport and active travel options like walking and cycling more. This will also increase physical activity levels which will have major health benefits for everyone.

But local authorities need to do their bit too. In the long term, they can expand cycle networks, introduce 20mph zones in built up areas and develop ‘islands’ of space away from traffic, for safer walking and cycling. In the short term, they can reduce the number of diesel vehicles they use and encourage staff to car share or use other travel options – these are changes that can be made relatively quickly and easily, and will contribute to the creation of a “clean air generation” that this report quite rightly advocates for.