More than 50% of pensioners in the UK are at risk from air pollution

8th March 2018

Recent research by the Labour party has come up with some worrying figures relating to air quality and the impact of this on our elderly population.

Results were drawn from House of Commons Library data supplied by local authorities, where levels of NO2 had been found to breach legal limits in 2015.

56% of the UK’s over 60’s live in areas that exceed legal limits of nitrogen dioxide. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the highest numbers were found in London where 1.35 million people aged 60 and over were found to be at risk.  Outside London, the North West comes in with a figure of 1.3 million, Yorkshire and the Humber with 996,000, the West Midlands with 836,000 and the South East with 817,000; the East of England had the lowest figure, coming in at just under 395,000.

Labour’s Clean Air Act

Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “It cannot be right that the majority of older people live in areas with illegally poor and polluted air.  Labour has promised a new Clear Air Act to get a grip on this escalating public health emergency.”

The pledge, originally part of the Party’s 2017 General Election manifesto, has been renewed, but Labour has not, so far, indicated how the legislation would take shape.

The Conservative government has been criticised for being slow to comply with EU pollution laws but says it is developing a new comprehensive clean air strategy that to be published later this year. Thérèse Coffey Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently told the Guardian. “We have already put in place a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality, with a particular focus on transport,” and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan has introduced cleaner buses on routes through pollution black-spots in the capitol as well as higher charges to deter dirty vehicles from central London.

The quality of the air we breathe clearly impacts on our health and wellbeing and an estimated 40,000 people are dying prematurely each year due to complaints directly linked to poor air quality such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. There’s growing evidence that other conditions such as dementia and stroke are made worse by air pollution so it’s important that we take action.

It’s not just outside

The quality of the air outside our buildings obviously affects the quality of the air inside. Figures show that pollutants in the air we breathe indoors can be up to five times higher than levels recorded outside. A high proportion of London’s hospitals and clinics are located in highly polluted areas, which puts some of society’s most vulnerable people at great risk, so it’s vital that indoor air quality is improved to ensure a healthier living environment.

The EU has recently placed indoor air quality on its building agenda for the first time and plans to review building standards so that our buildings are better ventilated.

Guardian provides IAQ and Air Hygiene Assessment services, to keep building occupants safe and healthy. In healthcare establishments, this includes compliance with HTM 03-01 – Specialised Ventilation for Healthcare Premises.

For Guardian’s services specifically for the healthcare sector, click here