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Clean Air Day 2021: Why now is the time to get serious about tackling air pollution

Clean Air Day 2021: Why now is the time to get serious about tackling air pollution

The British Safety Council's Time to Breathe campaign is calling for three changes to help combat the dangers of air pollution | Credit: British Safety Council

British Safety Council

2 min read Partner content

Clean Air Day, being marked today, is an opportunity to improve public understanding of air pollution, build awareness of how air pollution affects our health and explain the actions we can all take to tackle air pollution, helping to protect the environment and our health.

Reducing the exposure to toxic air, particularly for outdoor workers, has never been so urgent.

That's why the British Safety Council has launched its Time to Breathe campaign, calling for three key changes:

  1. For improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK
  2. For the UK to adopt legal limits, using as a minimum standard, World Health Organisation limits for outdoor workers’ exposure to the most dangerous air pollutants – PM2.5, PM10, Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone. This is because for the UK’s outdoor workers the street is their workplace
  3. For substantially more research into the effects of exposure to ambient air pollution on outdoor workers.

Air pollution is a silent, invisible killer that is largely being ignored. But it is preventable. While toxic air is potentially harmful to everyone, the risk of exposure is greater for outdoor workers, for whom the street is their workplace. This means ambient air pollution must be fully recognised as the occupational health issue it is. It causes 40,000 early deaths a year and costs the UK economy a staggering £20 billion annually.

Unsafe air is not something society should simply accept

For many outdoor workers in the UK, the shocking reality is that drawing breath during their working day is shortening their life. For them, ambient air pollution has turned the simple, human act of breathing into a deadly occupational hazard. This forgotten army of outdoor workers are the people who deliver our letters and online shopping, help our children to cross the road, empty our bins, clean our streets, drive public transport, maintain our essential services, police our traffic or work on or near busy roads. They deserve better protection.

Unsafe air is not something society should simply accept. The benefits of pollution control far outweigh the costs. No one should be made ill by the job that they do. Outdoor workers deserve the same legal protections as those on the factory floor or in offices. We need better air pollution policies for a longer and healthier life.

To support our campaign please follow us on social media @BritSafe and use the hashtags #timetobreathe and #cleanairwork

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