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Air quality impacts Londoners travel and health choices

London residents are increasingly becoming aware of the health impacts of air pollution, a survey carried out on behalf of the capital’s local authorities has suggested.

The survey, which was carried out on behalf of London Councils, involved more than 1,000 London residents, and found that nearly a third of all respondents felt that London’s air quality had got worse in the last 12 months.

London residents are increasingly aware of the impact of air pollution on their lives, a survey has suggested

47% of people said air quality impacted on decisions they made regarding their health, compared to 39% 12 months ago, while over a third said air quality impacts on their travel decisions.

According to London Councils, this was highest amongst those who cycle, are in employment, parents, those who are aged 25-34, and those whose health is affected by air pollution.

The polling was commissioned for a second year by London Councils, in order to gauge the public’s understanding of air quality and the effect it can have on their lives. 47% of respondents felt that their health had been impacted by London’s air quality, the organisation claimed.

Of those respondents, over two-thirds (68%) said that poor air quality has led them to experience breathing difficulties an increase compared to 2016, and 26% reported that they suffered from breathing difficulties as a result of air pollution.

This represents a 10% increase compared to last year’s poll, London Councils said.

Health

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee, said: “This new polling data clearly illustrates that Londoners feel that the city’s air quality is not improving and that their health and that of their families is at risk as a result. It is incredibly worrying that people are experiencing breathing difficulties, which could have long-term consequences if not addressed.

“Boroughs are leading efforts to improve air quality across the capital using the powers and resources we have available, but we would like to do more. We are calling on central government to consider giving councils the regulatory powers to control sources of pollution outside of transport and ensure local authorities are fully funded to monitor and improve air quality in their areas effectively.”

Policy

London Councils has also claimed that the polling demonstrates that there is strong support for policies aimed at tackling air pollution, including incentives to buy electric vehicles.

The organisation is calling for government to introduce a new Clean Air Act, to give local authorities powers to control sources of pollution outside of transport and to ensure councils have the necessary funding to monitor air quality in their areas effectively.

Other measures that the organisation is backing include a ‘carefully designed’ scrappage scheme.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “This data further adds to evidence that our air pollution crisis is taking its toll on our lives. Air pollution effects everyone, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, including the elderly, children and people with lung conditions.

“We need strong national policies to support local authorities. The government should use the upcoming budget to stop incentivising diesel in the tax system and put in place bold policies to protect us from toxic air.”

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