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How air pollution became the biggest talking point of 2018

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Emily Reynolds
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Young people are increasingly concerned about air pollution, a new study has found. 

Air pollution is an increasing priority for young people, research for a right wing think tank has found – and they also believe the government is not doing enough. 

A survey from Bright Blue found that 54% of under 40s felt that the government is “not doing enough to tackle air pollution” – a group that also stated they would be far more likely to lend their support to a party who made a conscious effort to tackle the problem. 

A further 70% of people polled said they were concerned about air pollution, particularly when it came to health concerns. The majority also believed that MPs should be taking charge with tackling of the issues. Others pointed to individuals, industry and car companies as responsible for the issue.

Air pollution is a significant health concern: it’s estimated that 40,000 early deaths a year are down to the problem, with links to asthma, heart disease and lung problems. 

This could also have an impact on the NHS – asthma alone costs the NHS £1bn a year.

Just this year, legal documents have revealed that the death of a nine year old girl from an asthma attack had a “striking association” with air pollution. Ella Kissi-Debrah lived near London’s South Circular Road.

“The dramatic worsening of her asthma in relation to air pollution episodes would go a long way to explain the timing of her exacerbations across her last four years,” the documents said. 

The UK has also been taken to the European Courts of Justice because its levels of air pollution are illegal. 

“We have waited a long time and we cannot possibly wait any longer,” said Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for environment, at the time. “We have said that this commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim. It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale.”

“The government’s plans for reducing air quality have been widely criticised and deemed inadequate by the High Court,” said Bright Blue researcher Eamonn Ives.

“The public clearly believe national government should play a bigger role – in fact the biggest role – in introducing measures to reduce air pollution. The government should be helping to establish a larger network of low emission zones across England.”

Images: Unsplash

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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.  

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