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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Cleaning Up Our Air Inside and Outside

Friday, 07 February 2020

Every year in Greater Manchester, 1,200 people die because of exposure to dirty air. From chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and obesity to more serious health issues such as cancers, strokes and heart or lung diseases, fighting air pollution and its consequences is one of the greatest public challenges that we face today. Over the past 18 months Tameside has taken the lead on facing that challenge, working with our partners within and outside the borough to clear up our air, reduce our carbon footprint and protect our shared environment.

Yet even with this pioneering and comprehensive work, there is still more that we need to do. A joint report released this week by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Royal College of Physicians looks beyond the current conversation about air pollution on our roads and streets and points out, quite rightly, that we need to look at air pollution in our homes, public buildings, schools and offices as well.  

Their research makes for sobering reading. The average child spends a greater proportion of their lives indoors than outside, but the air they breathe inside their homes can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. While outdoor air pollution comes from things like car exhausts, industrial emissions and micro-plastics, sources of indoor pollution include damp and mould, tobacco smoke, chemicals from building materials and furnishings, aerosols sprays and cleaning products. What’s worse, many of the measures that we use to improve the environmental sustainability of our homes can inadvertently make the air even more polluted (For example: putting in more insulation can often keep pollutants inside the house by reducing ventilation). As is always the case this pollution does not affect everybody the same, poorer households are far more likely to be trapped in substandard accommodation, most of which have the kind of damp and under-ventilated environment that encourages the worst kind of indoor pollution.

While there are large numbers of laws that set minimum standards for outdoor air quality, (standards – it should be added – that the UK has fallen short of in recent years) there are no comparative laws that apply to ensuring clean air indoors. Where rules do exist, they are often a confusing and contradictory mix of building, workplace and product regulations. The report recommends that local authorities should take the lead in monitoring and enforcement of indoor air quality. To make this truly effective every building, be they commercial property or housing in the owner-occupied, social or private-rented sector, would need to be covered. This would be enforced by measures such as; setting legally binding performance standards for indoor air quality (covering issues like ventilation rate to maximum concentration levels for specific pollutants), indoor air quality tests for buildings immediately after their construction and at regular intervals during their lifetime, and creating a fund to support low income families to improve their own homes. I believe that this is something that we need to take a serious look at, and we should be arguing for government support and funding to help to make it happen.

The surge in action to protect the quality of our outdoor air in recent years has shown that, with the right levels of funding and political will, we can get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. We’ve proven in Tameside through our Green Summits that we can rally together local authorities, charities, households, manufacturers and businesses to protect our shared environment. The time is right for us to take that progress further. Not just to make sure that we can breathe clean air wherever we are, but to do what we can in Tameside to save planet Earth for the next generation and beyond.


Posted by: Executive Leader

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