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Clean Air Day 2022 – how cleaning up the air around us can improve our health, save lives and save money

1:29 pm, Tuesday, 14th June 2022 - 2 years ago

Environment and community safety

Did you know that air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to our health, no matter who you are or where you live?

Thankfully, there are simple things we can all do to cut down on the pollution we cause and make the air we breathe cleaner. Even better, these steps can also save you money, improve your health and are great for the environment.

On 16 June Clean Air Day will see schools, healthcare, workplaces and communities across the UK running activities and taking action to inspire people to take simple steps to protect their health, their families’ health, and children’s health from air pollution.

Clean Air Day is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign and this year’s theme is ‘air pollution dirties every organ in the body’.

Air pollution is an umbrella term for lots of different types of pollution in the air around us. It includes small particles from things like exhaust fumes or smoke and gases such as nitrogen dioxide. It also includes some chemicals and even mould.

Different types of pollution are caused by different activities and behaviours and can affect your body and the environment in different ways. 

North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) is supporting Clean Air Day by raising awareness of the actions we can all take to clean up the air and reduce pollution. This year the focus is on walking, which has positive benefits for your health and the planet. We are encouraging people to do three key things around this theme:

  • Walk those short distance trips and leave the car at home, where you can. There’s even a Clean Air Day walking playlist on Spotify to help you on your way.
  • Talk to someone about the harms of air pollution.
  • Ask local and national decision makers for what would make it easier for you to walk more and have clean air in your community.

Cllr Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for Safer and Stronger Communities at NELC, said:

“Everybody can have a positive impact on air quality and we would like to inspire people, businesses and other organisations to understand what they can do to reduce air pollution and limit its impact on their health and that of others.

“We continuously monitor air quality in the borough and it’s reassuring to note that we have seen improvements in recent years.

“However, there is a lot more we can do and walking or cycling instead of driving short journeys is a simple way we can all help.”

Geoff Barnes, Deputy Director of Public Health at NELC, said:

“The impact of the environment on health has long been recognised, and poor air quality is acknowledged to be the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. There are actions we can all take to reduce emissions of air pollutants which in turn will help to protect and improve the health of current and future generations. By driving less and switching to greener forms of transport such as walking and cycling, we can all help to improve the quality of the air that we breathe.”

Information on how to get involved is available on the Clean Air Day website: www.cleanairday.org.uk

How the Council tackles air pollution

The main sources of air pollution in North East Lincolnshire come from road traffic and domestic, institutional and commercial sources. There are also industrial emissions from areas in and around the ports of Grimsby and Immingham. Levels of polluting nitrogen dioxide are gradually declining and have remained within agreed levels since 2018, showing that it is possible to address air pollution and clean up the air around us.

Here are some of the steps the Council takes to tackle air pollution:

  • Reducing congestion and working towards a cleaner, less polluting transport network
  • Promoting and supporting sustainable transport options, including public transport, car sharing, electric vehicles and active travel such as walking and cycling
  • Raising awareness about how air pollution affects public health
  • Offering specialist advice on planning applications to mitigate potential sources of pollution and support environmentally sustainable development
  • Continuously monitoring air quality to identify areas of concern and making action plans for improvement
  • Encouraging people, businesses and other organisations to improve air quality and reduce the amount of pollution they generate
  • Funding air quality improvements.

Air pollution and climate change

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to our health, no matter who you are or where you live. It can harm every organ in your body and can shorten our lives, contribute towards chronic illness and put us more at risk from COVID-19. 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, causing lung disease, heart disease, dementia and strokes. 

Air pollution and climate change are both problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels for things like electricity and transport. In the UK, transport is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and to some types of air pollution.

Burning fossil fuels produces a variety of emissions. Some of these emissions, such as carbon dioxide, cause climate change. Some emissions, such as nitrogen dioxide, damage our health and some, such as black carbon, do both.

Reducing fossil fuel burning therefore has the dual benefit of directly reducing both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, these benefits will only be seen if the technologies replacing the burning of fossil fuels, emit less pollution and carbon. A good example is wind or solar power for electricity production, which do not produce harmful emissions.

An air quality monitoring station in Grimsby

How does the Council monitor and manage air quality?

NELC uses two automatic monitoring stations and 34 air quality measurement tubes to check quantities of polluting nitrogen dioxide in the borough.

Results from the monitoring stations can be found in the Annual Status Report on the Council’s website at NELC Air Quality Annual Status Report 2021 (nelincs.gov.uk). The tubes, known as diffusion tubes, have a wire mesh under a cap at the top. The mesh is coated in a chemical that absorbs nitrogen dioxide and shows how much is present in the air.

Local authorities must continually review and assess air quality in their area. If there is a breach of an Air Quality Objective, then an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) is designated.

North East Lincolnshire has one AQMA in a section of Cleethorpe Road next to Riby Square in Grimsby. This has been in place since 2010 and the Council implemented a plan to help reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in the area. Levels are gradually declining and have remained within agreed levels since 2018.

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