MPs call on government to enshrine WHO PM2.5 guidelines in law

MPs have again called on the government to enshrine in law World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline limits for particulate matter (PM2.5) in its upcoming Environment Bill.

The call came from the Environmental Audit Committee who on Tuesday (September 17) published the report, Our Planet, Our Health, which outlines actions it believes the government must take to ensure the public have access to clean air and food.

With 83% of the population living in urban areas by 2017, the report says city design and lifestyles are big contributors to poor air quality in the UK, causing up to 40,000 deaths a year and costing society and the economy over £22bn per year.

It says actions to limit air pollution not only reduce the health burden of poor air, but bring co-benefits and improve well-being through incentivising outdoor activities like walking and gardening which, in turn, can help mitigate climate change.

The EAC repeated its call for the introduction of a new Clean Air Act, first made in a joint report in 2018, to mitigate against the impact of poor air quality on human health with new legislation introduced as soon as possible.

They also say that the threat from indoor air pollution was found to be a major area of concern and said the government’s review of building regulations should include changes to mitigate the negative impacts of indoor air pollution, in line with advice from the Committee on Climate Change.

The committee says they are looking forward to the introduction of air quality legislation in the Environment Bill, which is due before the end of 2019, and are encouraging them to draft it with legislation that enshrines the WHO annual mean guideline of 10ug/m³.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP said: ‘More people are living in cities at risk from over-heating and water shortages, they’re breathing polluted air, eating more fast food and getting less exercise. What’s needed is a planetary health champion to put this agenda at the heart of government.’

Read the report here.

Former UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove suggested that the Environment Bill will enshrine WHO limits for PM2.5 in law. However, his replacement, Theresa Villiers, is yet to confirm this.