The scandal of air pollution

A new World Health Organisation reveals that globally, air pollution kills at least 9 million people and costs trillions of dollars every year.

There are at least 300 deaths in Bristol each year attributable to air pollution, and pollution levels are often at their highest levels outside schools and nurseries.

The government is moving to tackle the issue, planning to ban diesel and petrol vehicle sales by 2040. But for many that’s too little too late, amounting to 6,900 avoidable deaths in Bristol alone.

Children living in areas of high air pollution often develop asthma, and their lung capacity can become restricted for life, leading to severe respiratory diseases by the time they’re in early middle age. Other diseases linked to air pollution include pneumonia, angina, heart attacks, strokes and even dementia. Polluted air breathed by pregnant women increases the risk of babies being born with low birth weights, which itself can cause health problems.

It’s not an easy – or cheap – problem to solve. Charges on the most polluting cars impact overly on poorer people and small business owners. But solve it we must, otherwise the health burden will cripple the NHS.

The government needs to act more quickly to transition people away from petrol and diesel cars. Electric cars are proving that they can perform as well as traditional vehicles, and the technology is improving rapidly, with carmakers investing millions, because they know the writing’s on the wall for fossil fuels.

Keynsham is growing fast, and there will soon be even more traffic on our roads. To tackle increasing levels of air pollution in our town, we all need to get out of our cars, and make shorter journeys on foot or by bike. B&NES Council needs to create cycle lanes and footpaths from the new developments and existing residential areas to the town centre and schools.

It needs to invest in efficient and frequent public transport to get commuters out of their cars, and dedicated car parking spaces for car club vehicles. An increase in charging points for electric vehicles would encourage more non-polluting cars in our town. All these measures can work to clean up our air and make Keynsham a healthier place to live and work.