TOP TIPS TO HELP REACH OUT TO PEOPLE MOST AFFECTED BY AIR POLLUTION

There are illegal levels of air pollution in most areas of the UK. 59% of the population - 40 million people - live in areas where diesel pollution threatens health.

While it affects most of us, many people will be disproportionately impacted by air pollution. Understanding this can help you involve a wider range of people and build the broadest campaign that reflects the area and concerns of the community. The voices and experiences of those most affected can often be very powerful. Such voices will add even more strength and legitimacy to your campaign – making decision-makers more likely to hear and act on concerns. 

Here are some facts and top tips to help your campaign reach out to and speak with those most affected by air pollution.  

Please note: Many of the facts below are deeply worrying for many people – especially if people feel unable to do anything about it. So remember to be positive about your campaigning – together we can, and will, end dangerous levels of air pollution. Thousands of people up and down the country are taking action and forcing Government and councils to act. The more people are aware of this public health emergency, the more likely we are to secure the changes we need. 

If people are concerned about their health they should discuss this with a health professional. If they are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality,  they should check the Daily Air Quality Index’s advice

Have you got a top tip you’d like to see added to this list? Get in touch and email Aaron on aaron.kiely@foe.co.uk

PEOPLE LIVING IN DEPRIVED NEIGHBOURHOODS

Levels of air pollution are often higher in deprived neighbourhoods – further worsening the UK’s health inequalities. People on the lowest incomes tend to live closer to main roads. 

  • Try reaching out to local resident’s associations and housing associations to ask if you can speak at the next meeting about air quality in the area. 

  • How about contacting the councillors in the most deprived areas and asking them for their engagement in the campaign? They will often be keen to discuss something that is damaging the health of many of their residents. Could they organise a public meeting on the problem? 

  • Friends of the Earth local groups are entitled to a limited number of free air quality monitoring tubes. These tubes are a great way to involve people in an experiment and deepen their understanding of the problem. 

  • Friends of the Earth is able to provide a limited number of free air quality monitoring tubes to help engage people in deprived areas tackle air pollution where they live. Get in touch with cleanair@foe.co.uk to find out if your campaigning in deprived neighbourhoods makes you eligible for our free monitoring scheme.

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CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Children whose lungs are still developing are particularly vulnerable. More than 2,000 schools and nurseries are close to roads with damaging levels of diesel fumes. Evidence has shown that some primary school children living in highly polluted urban areas had up to 10% less lung capacity than normal. 

Children living in highly polluted areas are also four times more likely to have reduced lung function in adulthood. Can you believe it? Thankfully, improving air quality for children has been shown to halt and reverse this effect. Read more in the report by the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health - The lifelong impact of air pollution.

  • The Clean Air Schools Pack is a free educational resource to help engage school pupils and teachers on air quality. It contains free air quality monitoring tubes to help children uncover the pollution near the school and campaign to reduce it. Find our more and order a Schools Pack

  • If you're a student at college or university, particularly if you've grown up in a polluted place, you may also be keen to get involved in campaigning for clean air. Get in touch with the Students’ Union at your University/College or with your Student Liaison Officer to talk about joint work.  

BLACK, ASIAN AND MINORITY ETHNIC PEOPLE

Black, Asian and minority ethnic people have been found to be disproportionately exposed to one of the most dangerous types of air pollution – Particulate Matter. Worryingly, there is no safe level of exposure to this form of pollution. 

  • Most towns and cities where air pollution is a significant problem will have some form of BAME organisation. The Council may be able to provide a list of organisations to contact. There may also be some BAME community centres and associations in the area. 

  • Many BAME people practise a faith. Does your area have a Mosque, Gurdwara, Church, Temple, or other place of worship? You could ask to talk to the respective committees or leaders about air pollution in the area and how you can work together. Some places will be happy to have a stall and information leaflets; some may even be happy to conduct air quality monitoring. 

PREGNANT WOMEN

A new study suggests that air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to health. Scientists have also warned that exposure to air pollution in earlier stages of pregnancy could increase the risk of premature births. 

  • Many people will find it reassuring to know that there are services that alert you when air pollution is high. You can also think about how you travel so you can lessen your exposure to dirty air. Generally, travelling through side streets and avoiding main roads is best. Here’s a London-specific tool that can help plan lower pollution routes: http://www.breathelondon.org/plan-lower-pollution-travel-route

OLDER PEOPLE

As we grow older, our immune systems tend to weaken and we become more susceptible to falling ill. We also know that for older people, living near a busy road speeds up the rate of lung function decline that is associated with ageing. 

  • Try approaching the local Age UK group, the National Pensioners Convention, as well as regional retired member sections of trade unions. 

IN THE WORKPLACE  

Air pollution is a health and safety problem in the workplace. Trade unionists - from taxi drivers to teachers to postal service workers - are sounding the alarm and campaigning for protection from exposure to cancer-causing diesel fumes.  

  • Workplaces with a trade union will often have health and safety representatives. They will be best placed to discuss the potential harm caused by air pollution to workers. Organisations such as Unite the Union and Greener Jobs Alliance have resources for trade unionists to campaign on air pollution and exposure to diesel fumes. 

PEOPLE WITH RESPIRATORY, CARDIAC AND other HEALTH CONDITIONS

We know air pollution can trigger heart attacks, exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma and diesel fumes, and can even cause lung cancer. 

  • GP surgeries in your area may be ideal places for posters and leaflets. Many national charities such as the British Lung Foundation will have local groups and networks that you can link up with. 

  • You might also want to let doctors in your area know about the excellent Doctors Against Diesel, who are campaigning for action on air pollution.