Green councillors in Bristol today welcome the UK’s first ever National Clean Air Day. It is vital to recognise the importance of clean, breathable air to everyone’s health and wellbeing - air pollution is rapidly becoming known as a silent killer. Among adults it is thought to contribute to about 1 in 13 cases of Lung Cancer and increases the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory issues. Health impacts are worse for children - air pollution is linked to premature births and poor lung development, as well as increased incidence of, and more severe problems with, asthma. (National Clean Air Day facts)
It’s therefore crucial to people’s welfare and health to reduce our exposure to (and production of) air pollution as much as possible. One of the main ways you can reduce individual exposure to air pollution is to leave the car at home and take less polluting forms of transport to work or school, whether public transport, walking or cycling. Evidence shows that cyclists are less exposed to air pollution than people travelling by car as well as receiving health benefits from the exercise.
At the city level, clean air has been a priority for Bristol Greens since as far back as 1989 (see this press clipping). In 2016 they surveyed over 500 people to get their views on air-quality and found that over half said their health had been affected by poor air quality. In November they put forward a motion – supported unanimously by all councillors – calling on the Mayor to immediately take needed steps to reduce deaths and illness linked to polluted air, commit to implementing a Clean Air Zone in Bristol and to producing an updated Bristol-wide strategy to bring air quality within safe and legal limits.
Last month a report published by Green MEPs Keith Taylor and Molly Scott Cato revealed the scale of the problem in Bristol, finding that by 2021 as many as 757 deaths in the City could be caused by air pollution (See the Polluted Cities report). Research commissioned by the Council found that over 10% of deaths in Lawrence Hill and Central wards, and between 9% and 10% of deaths in seven further wards in the city, were attributable to air pollution (‘Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Bristol’ p.27). Bristol Greens have launched a 5 point plan to secure clean air in Bristol – details can be found here.
Eleanor Combley, Leader of Bristol's Green Group of councillors, said, "This is an invisible public health crisis and today Green councillors are impatient to see people’s concerns translated into real improvements in air quality. We look forward to the Mayor’s upcoming progress report next month on action towards achieving clean air in our city".