Clean air day is the largest air pollution campaign in the UK and sets out to raise awareness of the pollution and the changes we can make improve air quality. From how you travel to how you manage your home, there are simple ways you can make a positive contribution towards making the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.
What is air pollution?
Air pollution refers to different types of pollution in the air, such as: particle pollution, chemicals, gases and mould. All pollution can be inhaled and absorbed into your body, which can affect you in different ways.
Particle pollution comes from various places like fires, exhaust fumes and smoking, and this type of pollution is largely invisible although, when pollution levels are high the sky can look hazy. Gases are a result of burning fuels, bonfires or other material, and this type of pollution is especially high around roads. Chemicals easily disperse into the air and leave a strong smell when levels of these are high. They are emitted from products like air fresheners, hair sprays and cleaning products. Mould grows in damp places, often because of condensation forming in areas where there is inadequate ventilation.
Air pollution in London
Around half of London’s air pollution is caused by road transport and it is reported that up to 36,000 deaths in the UK each year are caused by air pollution. During this year’s London Marathon, it was reported that air pollution was 97% lower than on a normal Sunday, clearly demonstrating the effects transport has on air pollution.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has taken action by creating 12 low emission bus zones and by introducing the Ultra Low Emissions Zone back in April 2019. These efforts are to help reduce the levels of air pollution in the worst affected areas in a bid to halve emissions from cars in the capital by 2020.
Besides larger scale happenings, there are many things we can all do on a daily basis to make a difference.
- Keep your kitchen smoke free
Try to keep lids on pots when you are cooking wherever you can to reduce the amount of energy needed to cook and to reduce the amount of pollution escaping from your gas hob.
- Make the most of fresh air
Prevent air pollution from building up in your house by opening windows when you are cooking or cleaning to allow in fresh air and stop the concentration of pollution from getting too high. If you live by a busy road, try to only open windows furthest away from the road and try to keep your windows closed during rush hour.
- Choose furniture carefully
Furniture and furnishings can be sources of pollutants like formaldehyde. Try to choose products made from solid wood rather than MDF or plywood or alternatively, choose second hand furniture as the amount of pollution furniture gives off decreases with age.
Try to walk, cycle or scoot wherever you can rather than driving. You are exposed to lots of pollution by being stuck in traffic and the fumes from other vehicles can get sucked into your car. Research shows that a car driver can be exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and up to nine times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day.
NASA carried out research that showed that plants can remove pollution from the air. Different plants are able to remove different pollutants. For example ivy, spider plants and peach lilies can help to remove formaldehyde and aloe vera and chrysanthemums help remove benzene from the air.
- Take quieter routes
If you can, opting to walk along quieter routes such as less busy streets, parks or pedestrianised areas. Getting even a short distance away from busy roads can make a difference, quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by up to 20%. Considering the time of day you travel; if you can, avoid travelling at rush hour when pollution levels are often higher.