Tougher air pollution limits set for autumn 2022

WHO air pollution limits must be legally binding not simply guidance, says CIEH
18 June 2021 , Katie Coyne

Tougher air pollution limits are to be introduced in England by October 2022 along World Health Organization guidelines.

The government said it planned to develop a “sophisticated” population exposure reduction target for PM2.5 but that WHO guidelines would “inform its ambitions in shaping these targets”.

Westminster made the announcement in response to the coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report, following the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013.

A second inquest into Ella’s death found air pollution to be a contributing factor and she is the first person in the UK, and probably the world, to have this listed as a cause of death.

Ella’s mother Rosamund who has tirelessly campaigned on this issue was reported in the mainstream media as welcoming the measures but wanted “more urgency” and said of the wait until the new air pollution limits are in place: “What happens to all the children who are going to die in the interim?”

She also said: “The hope was always Ella's death wouldn't be in vain, and the hope is it will save future lives.”

The CIEH, which is a member of the Healthy Air Campaign coalition, also welcomed the new measures but said it was not enough for the WHO limits on PM2.5 to “inform ambitions” going forwards, and that they must be legally binding.

Central government has laid out a number of other measures including topping up the Air Quality Grant scheme for English local authorities by £6m.

It also plans to increase public awareness of air pollution, and will review of the daily sources of information available to the public.

Other proposals include working with charities on longer-term campaigns to raise awareness among vulnerable groups as well as working with traditional and new media companies to extend existing alert schemes. It will consider the effectiveness of a national SMS alert scheme.

NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) is to work on asthma management, and the new Office for Health Promotion will look at the public health benefits of reducing population exposure to PM2.5.

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