2 September 2019
Air pollution is a public health crisis. Public Health England estimates that between 2017 and 2035 air pollution will be the cause of 1.3 million illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and low birth weight in England alone. In Cambridgeshire 5.4 in every 100 deaths of people aged over 30 are linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. As Green MEP Catherine Rowett has pointed out, “Air pollution costs lives. Recent studies have shown that air pollution causes even more harm to health than previously understood, especially for children, and is causing hundreds of deaths in Cambridgeshire.“
Pollution levels of particulate matter in Cambridge are well above the Air Quality Guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation. In 2018 the maximum daily mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at Gonville Place was 69 μg/m³. This is nearly three times the 25 μg/m³ recommended maximum for rare (1/100) bad days, and in Cambridge most months have days above 50 μg/m³ (the guideline limit for annual average is 10 μg/m³). The World Health Organisation guidelines are based on an expert evaluation of the scientific evidence available; when pollution exceeds the recommended levels there will be detrimental effects to public health.
Elevated air pollution levels harm not only health, but our public institutions and the economy. The Environmental Audit Committee has estimated that air pollution will cost the NHS and social care providers between £8.5 and £20.2 billion per year, to say nothing of the extra costs incurred by missed work.
It's time to act and let Cambridge breathe. The Cambridge Green Party calls on Mayor James Palmer, Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council to develop a plan by 2021 to reduce air pollution levels to below World Health Organisation guidelines by 2025.
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