16 March 2019
Air pollution is linked to more than 400,000 premature deaths a year in Europe. Toxic air can aggravate breathing difficulties and increase the risk of asthma attacks. Long-term exposure can cause serious medical conditions like cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
In an interview with Justin Webb and Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4, our Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns, Simon Alcock, criticised cities for not playing their part in tackling the illegal levels of air pollution that are proving harmful to the health of people across the UK.
Calling on the government and the car industry, he said: “People have been buying cars that are over the legal limits for many years now, and it’s only right that the car industry steps in and sorts it out because we’ve got the worst of all worlds at the moment.”
He added: “We’ve got the government passing the buck to the local authorities, and those cities using the government’s own inaction as an excuse to do nothing themselves.”
When asked how the crisis might be solved, Simon’s response was quite clear.
“What we’d like to see is clean air zones—like we’re going to see in London —in cities that have illegal levels of air pollution. And if they’re going to do that, [the government is] going to have to help people switch to cleaner forms of transport because that’s turning into a public health crisis,” he said.
"While it’s evident that cities cannot deal with this matter on their own, it is also apparent that they should not copy the government’s inaction and so have their residents breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health at risk. There is a need for our city authorities and national government to demonstrate the political will to face this problem."