• Kim Bresseleers

October 8, 2020 - Clean Air Day

Clean Air Day is a large air pollution campaign, engaging thousands of people at hundreds of events, and reaching millions more through the media. The campaign normally takes place on the third Thursday in June. However, due to COVID-19, this year Clean Air Day is taking place on 8 October 2020 and will be more virtual to keep everyone safe!

During the COVID-19 lockdown we experienced cleaner air and saw massive shifts to low pollution behaviors. Let’s keep up the momentum and keep our air clean.  We all have a part to play!

The World Health Organization recognizes that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today. Data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants. From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million deaths every year. Poor air quality causes heart and lung diseases, is linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development and may even contribute to mental health issues. 

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is an umbrella term for lots of different types of pollution in the air around us. All these pollutants can be inhaled and absorbed into your body. Different types of air pollution are caused by different things. Mostly, air pollution is invisible to the naked eye.

Where does air pollution come from?

There are many sources of air pollution including:

  • road transport

  • energy generation

  • industry

  • open fires

  • agriculture

How does air pollution damage health?

Air pollution affects your body in lots of ways. It can increase the risk of some health problems and can make existing health problems worse. Over the longer term, your exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer and it has also been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessels).

Being exposed to air pollution can also affect children’s lung development. Children are still developing their organs and immune systems and their smaller bodies and airways make them especially vulnerable to dirty air.

How do I protect myself from air pollution?

Transport is a major source of pollution and changing how we travel can reduce how much pollution we create and how much pollution we breathe in. Here are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to air pollution:

  • Walk, cycle or scoot whenever you can rather than driving Being stuck in traffic can expose you to lots of pollution. Polluted air from the exhaust of other vehicles can get sucked into your car, and often stays trapped there, meaning you breathe in lots of pollution.

  • Try to avoid walking or cycling along the busiest roads Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads, and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%.

  • Work from home If your work allows it can be good to work from home occasionally, so that you avoid the commute altogether. This can be especially helpful on high air pollution days.

Based on information from the World Health Organization and Clean Air Day.

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