episode 9

The air we breathe

In this episode, we talk about impact pathway to understand the impacts of air pollution and transport policy – transport generally being the main source of air pollution in cities

In December 2020, a court in London decided that air pollution was the cause of death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah (RIP). This was a first in law recognising causality. Science has been aware of the health impacts of air pollution for decades. In London, at least since the ‘pea soupers’ of 1953 (see below). And air pollution is one of those areas where science has been incorporated into policy – we now have cleaner ways to generate electricity and heat / cool our homes (still room for improvement of course!) but there is a lot more to do about transport – where emissions are nearest to the people who are affected. 

And while ‘the air is cleaner’ was a common surprise during the lockdowns in 2020, long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to increased risk of dying from COVID19 (see references below).

But what can a household do about air pollution? You can reduce your travel by car, switch to cleaner vehicles (our next episode is on this!), when ordering online choose the slower delivery or click and collect nearby, so your next day delivery doesn’t add to the increasing delivery van traffic, and vote for the politicians who take air pollution, transport and everything else that is for your benefit, seriously. 

There is a lot to talk about air pollution. So here are some notes our intern, Canan, made for us on: 

History of air pollution and control London – from the ‘pea souper’ smogs of the 1950s to Clean Air Act and UN Protocols

Dieselgate – did the experts provide bad advice, or the politicians chose the easier option or is this all just complicated? 

Good stories from Climate Mayors, Singapore, Paris – it’s not just about reducing emissions but also increasing the greenery in our cities so more pollution can be absorbed. Exciting stuff is happening everywhere

Our guest in this episode is Oliver Lord, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Environmental Defense Fund Europe, focusing on air quality, transport emissions, sustainable travel, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure and transport planning.  

EDF-Europe’s London air monitoring work and a lot of information on the health impacts of air pollution is on this website, which also shows local air quality info: globalcleanair.org

*** The views we and our guests express in this podcast are our own ***