It’s a bit of an understatement to say that there’s a lot going on at the moment. Along with the Coronavirus pandemic and arguments over restrictions and local lockdowns, we also have an election in the US which is taking up a lot of time and, of course, the ongoing saga of the Prime Minister’s failure to cook his “oven ready” deal.
In among all of this, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you missed Clean Air Day earlier this month. The quality of our air and the implications for all of us of breathing unclean air are major issues but they don’t quite have the instant drama of Trump, Brexit and the rest, which attracts lots of media attention.
However, we ignore the quality of our air at our peril. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK – that’s more than the population of Reddish. In fact, the World Health Organization has identified unclean air as the biggest environmental health risk we face today. Not only does it cause heart and lung diseases, it is also linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development and may even contribute to mental health issues.
One of the reasons that I think we forget about air quality is that we have got past the times of big Victorian factories producing plumes of smoke or smog so thick that you can’t see through it, but this doesn’t mean that the issue has disappeared. Indeed, some of the worst levels of air pollution in our region are right here in the north of Stockport borough. We need to address this.
One element of the solution would be for schools to adopt the Clean Air for Schools Framework. A number of different organisations, including the University of Manchester, have developed the framework after research showed that air pollution was having a negative impact on children’s educations.
The framework is a blueprint of actions for tackling air pollution in and around schools. In addition to practical steps aimed at keeping the air clean near schools, it also involves teaching pupils more about air quality and I think this is key. If children are taught to think more about the issue and how they can play their part in tackling it from an early age, then the future of our air is bright and – most importantly – clean.