Additional funding from government is needed for awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers of air pollution to public health, according to the organisers of the national Clean Air Day.
Findings of a survey released today (8 November) by Global Action Plan, the coordinator of the annual air quality campaign, suggest that people respond well when given accurate information and practical advice about reducing their exposure to air pollution.
Polling followed the 2018 Clean Air Day campaign, which was backed by leading academics,16 medical colleges and other major health bodies, culminated in hundreds of events across the country on 21 June.
According to Global Action Plan, the before-and after-campaign polling showed more awareness of air pollution issues following Clean Air Day.
It also pointed to a greater public willingness to address problems around air pollution when people had reliable information to hand, Global Action Plan said.
Findings included more awareness of the dangers of indoor air pollution following the campaign – up by 12% to 74% of respondents – while 45% people questioned are now aware that cyclists and pedestrians often breathe cleaner air than drivers.
The same findings revealed that 22% chose to cycle or walk a route they had previously driven, compared to 16% before the campaign – an increase of 37% – and 71% now open windows for ventilation when they are cooking or cleaning – an increase of 22%.
Organisers of the Clean Air Day campaign are now calling for more funding from government to be diverted to support efforts to raise awareness of the health risk that air quality poses to the public.
Chris Large, senior partner at Global Action Plan, said: “The government knows that children could stop breathing the most dirty air with simple changes to their routine, but government departments cannot give this basic health advice due to lack of funding. When we have needed to fund previous health campaigns such as smoking, drink driving and healthy eating, the government has found the money. It’s time that funding was found to educate the millions of people who live in areas of unsafe air pollution.
“Air pollution is an urgent public health issue that’s up there with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To properly deal with it we need an ambitious and sustained public health campaign on a similar scale to no-smoking.â€?
Commenting on the findings of the Clean Air Day surveys, Mr Large added that whilst much of the evidence pointed to a positive impact on awareness of air quality issues.
“These findings are very positive but we’re still only scratching the surface of the problem so far. Hardly a day passes without more evidence of the profound damage air pollution is having on the nation’s physical and mental health, especially that of the most vulnerable.
“Clean Air Day is urging the government to fund a major public health campaign to help people avoid pollution every day. This should be on the scale of no-smoking or, more recently, Change for Life or Be Clear on Cancer health campaigns. An investment of at least £10 million per year is needed.
“Surely there is enough evidence now to demonstrate the need for a nationwide public awareness campaign, funded by the government, to protect the health of the public?â€?