Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution is happening on Thursday 15 June 2023. The theme is ‘Clean up our air to look after your mind this #CleanAirDay’.
The campaign is focusing on the fact that cleaning up our air is good for us in many ways: it not only benefits our physical health and the environment, but can also protect our mental and brain health.
This year, North East Lincolnshire Council is supporting Clean Air Day by raising awareness of the actions we can all take to clean up the air and reduce pollution.
The Council launched a poster competition to mark Clean Air Day and can now reveal the four fantastic winners.
- Ruby Kitts
- Gracie Harrison
- Daisy Thomas
- Savannah Leggett
All four are students at Healing Academy and will have their posters displayed in the area over the next few weeks.
Cllr Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for Safer and Stronger Communities at NELC, said:
“Congratulations to our fantastic poster competition winners and thank you to Healing Academy for supporting this event.
“Clean Air Day gives us the opportunity to consider the steps we can all take to help improve the quality of the air that we breathe. Everybody can make a positive impact.
“Part of our role as a council is to monitor air quality in the borough and take action to make improvements.
“We are fortunate in North East Lincolnshire that we have only one area where air quality has been a concern in recent years and we’ve seen a fall in pollution levels in that location.
“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.”
Why is clean air important?
Cleaning up our air is good for us in many ways: it not only benefits our physical health and the environment but can also protect our mental and brain health.
The physical health impacts of air pollution – such as asthma, heart disease and cancers – have been recognised for decades. More recently, researchers are beginning to understand how air pollution can affect the brain and the mind.
People who breathe polluted air are more likely to develop mental health and brain conditions. Being exposed to air pollution is linked to mental health and brain conditions such as depression, anxiety and dementia.
When a person breathes polluted air, small pollution particles can enter through the lungs, into the blood stream and can reach the brain.
Geoff Barnes, Deputy Director of Public Health at NELC, said:
“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.
“The impact of the environment on health has long been recognised, and poor air quality is widely believed 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.”
How the Council proactively tackles air pollution
The main sources of air pollution in North East Lincolnshire come from road traffic, domestic 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
How does the Council monitor and manage air quality?
NELC uses two automatic monitoring stations (see main image) and 34 air quality measurement tubes to check quantities of polluting nitrogen dioxide in the borough.
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.
Results from the monitoring stations can be found in the Annual Status Report on the Council’s website at www.nelincs.gov.uk/assets/uploads/2022/07/North-East-Lincolnshire_2022_ASR_V2.pdf.
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.
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.