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air pollution

Scotland air pollution ‘concerning’

The British Safety Council says it is concerned by data analysed by Friends of the Earth Scotland, which showed that air quality breached legal limits during 2021 in Glasgow despite traffic levels continuing to be lower due to Covid restrictions.

Peter McGettrick, Chairman of British Safety Council, said: “It’s concerning to see how air pollution levels in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland rose again last year, having fallen back in 2020, and on Hope Street levels of Nitrogen Dioxide even broke the legal limit.

“It’s why I took to the streets of Glasgow in November during COP26 to show people the impact air pollution has on our health, and especially people whose work means they don’t get to choose the air they breathe.

“It is also why British Safety Council wants the UK Government to be ambitious when it sets new air quality targets later this year and match the World Health Organisation’s new and ambitious limits.”

British Safety Council says it has been campaigning since 2019 to raise awareness of the impact that air pollution can have on the health of outdoor workers.

One of the drivers of its campaign, Time to Breathe, has been the call for more and better data on how air pollution affects people such as outdoor workers. There is little research on the impact air pollution has on workers like street cleaners, refuse workers, traffic police, cycle couriers, construction or maintenance workers, newspaper sellers, gardeners, teachers or security guards working on busy roads.

For more on Time to Breathe, visit: https://britsafe.org/campaigns-policy/time-to-breathe-air-pollution-campaign/time-to-breathe/

You can read the analysis by Friends of the Earth Scotland here: https://foe.scot/press-release/pollution-levels-rebound-in-2021/

Government ‘ignoring the facts’ on clean air targets

The Government has ignored calls by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee to change its Environment Bill to protect outdoor workers from the dangers of air pollution, with the The British Safety Council asserting that the ‘shocking’ reality for many outdoor workers in the UK is that they are breathing toxic air during their working day.

In its response to the EFRA Committee’s February Air Quality report, the Government failed to agree to set more stringent targets for one of the most harmful pollutants known as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standards.

The British Safety Council says it supports this call by the EFRA committee, which has also been supported by the recent report by an independent coroner into the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, where air pollution was found to have been a material contribution. 

The Government response also fails to tackle setting targets for levels of other harmful pollutants including PM10, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, which the British Safety Council has been calling for as part of its Time to Breathe campaign.

Poor air quality is now the biggest environmental health issue facing the UK and is linked to an estimated 64,000 deaths a year. It causes more harm than tobacco or a lack of exercise and costs the economy a staggering £20 billion each year.

The British Safety Council is therefore urging the Government to take the immediate opportunity to really show its ambition and commitment to clean air and stop shying away from what needs to be done through the Environment Bill currently progressing through Parliament. This needs to be amended to set more stringent targets for tackling the most harmful pollutants, by adopting the WHO guideline limits. Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK. The evidence at the inquest into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be the minimum requirement. The issue will only get worse if the Government fails to take action to tackle the scale and urgency of this public health crisis.

Damian Testa, Head of Policy and Communications at the British Safety Council, said: “For many outdoor workers ambient air pollution has turned the simple, human act of breathing into a deadly occupational hazard. Action is long overdue, as confirmed by EFRA. Now is the time to take concrete action to ensure clean air for outdoor workers and stop tinkering around the edges.

“The Government must show greater urgency and accountability for this forgotten army of outdoor workers, the people who deliver our letters and food, help our children to cross the road, empty our bins, and keep us safe from crime. They deserve better protection. No one should be made ill by the job that they do.”

British Safety Council publishes Air Pollution Manifesto

The British Safety Council has launched its Air Pollution Manifesto, which calls on all candidates standing for election as a Metro Mayor on 6 May 2021 to commit to a Time to Breathe 7-Point Plan.

The industry body says air pollution is the UK’s largest environmental risk to health with 40,000 early deaths a year, including ‘deadly’ impacts on outdoor workers, and a £20 billion cost to the UK economy.

The 7-Point Plan comprises:-

  1. Appointing a Clean Air Czar with executive powers to ensure that levels of ambient air pollution are reduced to below legal/ WHO guideline limits for the most dangerous sources of air pollution in the shortest time possible.
  2. Running a publicity campaign to encourage drivers to stop engine idling.
  3. Permitting electric cars only in cities from 2030 at the latest
  4. Retrofitting diesel buses to be powered by electricity to improve urban air quality.
  5. Implementing a Clean Air Zone or an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone covering the metro area.
  6. Funding air pollution monitoring infrastructure to the same accuracy as London for emissions data.
  7. Investing in cleaner energy, cycling and walking.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, said: “The shocking reality for many outdoor workers in the UK is that they are breathing toxic air during their working day. For them, ambient air pollution has turned the simple, human act of breathing into a deadly occupational hazard. Action is long overdue. Now is the time to invest in clean air for outdoor workers.

“This forgotten army of outdoor workers are the people who deliver our letters and food, help our children to cross the road, empty our bins, and keep us safe from crime. They deserve better protection.”

“So, we are calling on those standing for election as a Metro Mayor this May to commit to ensuring clean air is our future. Outdoor workers deserve the same legal protections as those on the factory floor. No one should be made ill by the job that they do.”

You can read the full manifesto here.