Air pollution harms the health of millions of people, and it’s estimated that it causes as many as 40,000 early deaths in the UK every year.
But these are largely avoidable deaths, and there are lots of simple things we can all do to help improve air quality – and that’s what Clean Air Day is all about.
The day, on June 21, is a chance to find out more about air pollution and take action to make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.
Air pollution has numerous causes, including vehicle exhaust fumes, cars not being well maintained, emissions from open fires, boilers and stoves, and even fumes from cleaning and personal care products.
Global Action Plan, which coordinates Clean Air Day, says it’s the perfect opportunity for people to ditch their cars and either walk or cycle to work. It also suggests these 12 ways to reduce air pollution both indoors and outside:
1. Leave the car at home
Walk, cycle, or use public transport and leave your car at home. Car drivers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist. So by ditching the car, as well as cutting down the pollution you make, you’re reducing your exposure to it – and getting some exercise too.
To use your car less, try car-sharing or working from home one day or more a week if possible, walking the kids to school, and swapping face-to-face work meetings for video conferencing.
2. Test drive an electric vehicle
With cars, vans and lorries responsible for so much air pollution, low-emission electric vehicles (EV) are much better for the environment. Clean Air Day organisers suggest that when you upgrade your car, explore an electric, hybrid or LPG model (to save on your road tax too). Find out more about electric cars at the EV selector.
3. Switch your engine off when stationary
By turning off the car engine whenever you’re not moving and it’s safe to do so, you’ll help make the air cleaner.
4. Make the courier do the carrying
Many city workplaces report that half of all deliveries are personal parcels for staff. That’s a lot of extra vans clogging up the city, and workers still have to carry their parcels home. Instead, opt for the alternative collection points delivery companies offer, like pick-up points in corner shops or lockers in train stations.
5. Use wood-burning stoves sparingly
Burning wood produces a lot of air pollution. To minimise this, buy a Defra-approved stove, use authorised fuel, and only light it when you really need to.
6. Regularly service your car
Remember to service your car regularly to make sure it runs as efficiently and cleanly as possible. Plus, keep your car tyres properly inflated, which means the car will be more efficient and use less fuel.
7. Recycle compostables
Rather than burning garden waste, which pollutes the air, compost it and turn it into food for your vegetable patch.
8. Regularly service your boiler
Carbon monoxide from faulty boilers and heaters can be fatal, so make sure you get your boiler serviced regularly.
9. Be a savvy cleaner
Cleaning products and aerosols produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can contribute to respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. So try to keep dust levels low, use fragrance-free, naturally-scented or mild cleaning products, and avoid aerosols.
10. Only burn smokeless fuels
Using smokeless fuels or dry, well-seasoned wood on your barbecue or stove helps reduce pollution from burning.
11. Consume less energy
Gas and electricity are big contributors to air pollution. Gas creates fumes when it’s burned to heat homes, and electricity produced by power stations burning fossil fuels has the same result. So switch off lights, fill the kettle with just the water you need, and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when you have a full load.
12. Switch energy suppliers
Choose renewable energy tariffs for your home supply to reduce the pollution produced by power stations.