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Public Health England’s Review of Interventions to Improve Outdoor Air Quality

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Image of a crystal clear clouds above a lake

Today (11 March 2019) there is coverage in The Times following an interview with Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England’s (PHE) medical director, coinciding with the publication of their ‘Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health’. The PHE report is also covered by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBC News Online and Mail Online which highlights that PHE has focused on parents who leave their engines running by schools.

The report calls for a ban on cars near schools, and the introduction of congestion charges in cities within the UK in an effort to reduce the negative health effects poor air pollution has on children. The Times leader article on today’s report references the Environment Secretary’s commitment to halving the number of people exposed to pollution levels in breach of the World Health Organizations guidelines by 2025, and targets to halve the harm to human health from air pollution by 2030. It says that whilst the Clean Air Strategy goes ‘a fair way’ to tackling air pollution, it says it does not go far enough.

We recognise that air pollution is one of the biggest public health challenges facing our country, and is one of the biggest threats to public health in England behind only cancer, obesity and heart disease. Our world-leading Clean Air Strategy focuses on tackling many sources of air pollution, and has been praised by the World Health Organisation. This Strategy is in addition to the government's plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, with nearly £500 million of extra funding made available to support local authorities to clean up emissions hotspots, and tackle their NO2 exceedances.

Due to the highly localised nature of the problem, local knowledge is crucial in solving pollution problems in these hotspots which is why local authorities – with support from government – are best placed to determine the right approach for their communities.

A Government spokesperson has said:

Air pollution is one of the biggest public health challenges facing our country and we must take action to cut it. We are investing £3.5 billion in reducing emissions at the roadside and the World Health Organization has praised our Clean Air Strategy as ‘an example for the rest of the world to follow’.

Our figures also show that the Clean Air Strategy will cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year by 2030.

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