The Build Back Cleaner Air report, published by charity Global Action Plan and funded by Guys and St Thomas’ Charitable Trust, presents evidence for government, local authorities, and campaigners to?build?back?cleaner?air more urgently than ever. It is based on primary social research and secondary scientific data over the lockdown period, says the charity.
Willingness to change - the public have embraced new low air pollution behaviours, such as walking, cycling and working from home, and want to keep doing them
We have an unprecedented opportunity to build back cleaner air as part of our ‘new normal’ as we recover from this COVID-19 crisis, it states. A survey conducted for Global Action Plan suggested that 72% of people think that clean air is even more important now because Coronavirus can affect people’s lungs, with only 5% of people disagreeing with that statement.
'Action on air pollution has never been more important, for in addition to the annual burden of disease and 36,000 deaths caused by air pollution, it also looks to be making us more vulnerable to COVID-19. The public mandate to act on air pollution has also never been stronger with the majority of people wanting governments and businesses to act more urgently on air pollution because of the coronavirus pandemic.'
It adds: 'Off the back of the report, we have created downloadable tools and assets to help the clean air movement, active travel groups and national and local governments best utilise its key findings. We hope our guidance will equip you to effectively engage the decision makers, businesses and the public in making the urgent case for clean air.'
The key outcomes of the report are threefold:
There is a link between environmental health and infectious disease - air pollution is more important than ever as it is a cause of underlying health conditions that can make people more susceptible to detrimental health outcomes from COVID-19. There is a detrimental link between the health outcomes of COVID-19 and air pollution. Air pollution may play a role in making us more vulnerable to catching COVID-19. It makes those with health conditions that are caused or worsened by air pollution – such as asthma, heart disease and COPD – more vulnerable to complications, even death, if they contract COVID-19. And high air pollution is causing irreversible damage to children’s health, reducing their lung function and creating a generation who may be more susceptible to future pandemics.
Heightened salience of air pollution - the public now consider clean air more important than ever and want to see central and local government and businesses invest more urgently in tackling air pollution than before the COVID-19 crisis. People have realised that clean air is possible and want it to stay. During the COVID-19 lockdown, levels of NO2 air pollution dropped by 20-30% across the UK, and by up to half in parts of London, primarily from a reduction in private car use. People noticed and appreciated the cleaner air and safer streets. The vast majority of people (72%) believe that clean air is even more important now because coronavirus can affect people’s lungs, and want government and businesses to tackle air pollution more urgently than before the outbreak of the virus.
Willingness to change - the public have embraced new low air pollution behaviours, such as walking, cycling and working from home, and want to keep doing them. Behaviour has shifted offering a profound moment of change. During lockdown millions of people changed their routines in a way that reduced air pollution, by working from home and walking and cycling more, and many are willing to continue to do so: 87% want to keep working from home to some extent, half want to walk more and a third would like to cycle more. It is easier to maintain a habit than foster a new one, so let’s build on this unique moment to create lasting change.
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