Harriet Edwards from British Lung Foundation writes a guest blog for Global Action Plan about petitioning for change in air quality.

Impact of air pollution

Pollution can impact on all our health. Everyday exposure across our lifetimes, increases all our risks of getting lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Over 12 million people across the UK live with a lung condition. Breathing is already difficult for them and pollution often makes it even worse.

Children are particularly vulnerable as their lungs are still developing. Their lung growth can be stunted by pollution, it can irritate their breathing and worsens existing asthma. Would you be happy if your child was passive smoking 10 cigarettes a day? That’s the equivalent amount of pollution children are exposed to living near a main road.

Petition for change

Air pollution is at illegal and unsafe levels in 169 local authorities across the UK. This is largely caused by traffic emissions and a huge increase in the number of diesel vehicles on the road. Over 19,000 people signed our clean air petition and told the government that this is not good enough. We need much further and faster action.

This is something that mum of three and British Lung Foundation supporter, Shazia, knows only too well.

"As a family, we walk and cycle the journey to school. It takes us across a busy, polluted road. My youngest son, Elias, is exposed to a higher level of fumes as his pushchair is at the same height as the car exhausts.

My eldest son, Zain, was diagnosed with asthma last summer which I think was partly caused by traffic fumes. It gets a lot worse for him when pollution is high. The harm caused by air pollution could affect their health for the rest of their lives. I’m very worried that pollution levels are not improving quickly enough for my children or any other children across the UK.”

Seeking a solution

To tackle the scale of this public health crisis, we need the UK government to lead the way with a new clean air act that seeks to tackle traffic emissions. This act would provide a great opportunity to bring together existing air quality legislation and establish the UK as a world leader on air pollution. We also need to establish a network of clean air zones across the UK in all pollution hotspots. These zones should restrict the most polluting vehicles and promote alternative transport methods.

We all have the power in our hands to be part of the solution. We can make greener, cleaner and healthier choices every day. We want to help these choices become the easiest choices. To do this, people need robust and accessible health advice on air pollution. That’s why the British Lung Foundation is supporting National Clean Air Day 2017.

Together, we can clean up the air we breathe.