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Pollution and an air of confusion


THE single biggest risk to human health is poor air quality, according to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Member of the Senedd, in her foreword to the Clean Air Plan for Wales 2020.

The plan cites the World Health Organization as its source and Ms Griffiths outlines how ‘lifestyle changes during the Covid-19 pandemic allowed communities to rediscover their local environment. Many people experienced a life without long car journeys, and a better appreciation of which journeys we truly need to take’.

Perhaps that’s why by the end of 2024 there will be a legal duty placed upon Welsh local authorities and ministers to ‘promote active travel as a way of limiting air pollution’, according to the Active Travel Delivery Plan 2024-2027.

Air pollution will also be addressed via the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill which will include amendments to existing legislation and will establish smoke control areas and clean air zones.

As I outlined here the Clean Air Framework for Wales warns of particulate matter air pollution resulting in cardiovascular and respiratory issues which might have many of us calling for immediate air quality improvement, one would think.

But here’s a curious anomaly. ‘Air pollution’ immediately puts most people in mind of outdoor air quality and the growing number of ULEZ zones around the UK, but most air pollution could occur in the home. The place where, it is said, many spend 80-90 per cent of their lives.

During 2020 we were subject to the most ridiculous propaganda such as this BBC article telling us how air pollution (AP) was exacerbating Covid-19. This article made no mention of indoor AP. It did, however, mention how in the US some ethnic minorities are disproportionately exposed to AP primarily caused by the consumption of white Americans (according to a study).

The truth is that indoor air pollution can be deadlier than outdoor. Estimates range from around eight times to as much as 100 times worse. It is thought that the strong correlation between poor air quality and Covid-19 could be explained by its negative impact on the immune system.

Although the Clean Air Plan for Wales does acknowledge indoor air pollution, it devotes only two out of around 80 pages to this issue.

Annexe A of the plan (which runs to 14 pages and 57 promised actions) makes only two explicit promises regarding indoor AP, namely:

‘We will continue to work with academia, public health organisations and other partners to develop and respond to new evidence on indoor air pollution as it emerges.’

‘We will raise people’s awareness of indoor air pollution through communication interventions, including ways to reduce exposure risks.’

Public Health Wales makes no mention of indoor AP. Its page on air pollution dated February 2020 begins with the statement that ‘outdoor air pollution is the largest environmental risk to health’.

Clean Air Day will take place this year in the UK on June 24. The organisation behind this national day, which began in 2017, is Global Action Plan, an environmental charity. On its Clean Air Day 2024 website page a template can be found for writing to one’s local councillor. Nowhere in this template does it mention indoor pollution.

A Clean Air Day pack can be downloaded under the ‘school resources’ tab; it includes posters with slogans such as ‘If possible work from home this clean air day’ and ‘Leave the car at home this clean air day’. There doesn’t appear to be one that educates about the dangers of Volatile Organic Compounds in the home, for example. (VOCS are chemicals emitted by cleaning supplies, paint, pesticides, copiers and printers, glues and adhesives, permanent markers and thousands of other household and office products.)

Healthy Air Cymru is a coalition of organisations including Sustrans Cymru, Asthma and Lung UK Cymru and Friends of the Earth Cymru. Their page states that ‘School engagement is essential’ and downloadable resources include a poster of the following indoctrinating ‘pledges’:

‘We pledge to encourage active travel to school to reduce harmful emissions on the school run.

‘We pledge to run an anti-idling campaign to reduce harmful emissions at the school-gate.

‘We pledge to run an awareness event for Clean Air Day every year.

‘We pledge to encourage other schools in the local area to follow our good example in cleaning our air.’

We are told that air pollution causes ‘up to 36,000 deaths each year in the UK (around 1,000 – 1,400 deaths in Wales). However, here’s a very interesting explanation taken from this Welsh Government page:

‘Mortality burden estimates are calculations that provide a useful indication of the scale of the air pollution problem in a given area at a certain point in time. They require careful interpretation as the equivalent range of deaths does not refer to “actual” numbers of deaths. They reflect the sum of the small contributions that air pollution exposure makes to life-expectancy reductions amongst all individuals in a population. They take account of multi-pollutant impacts, and present the burden of attributable all-cause (non-accidental) deaths as an ‘effect equivalent to’ range, rather than a central estimate.’

Lee Waters (former Welsh deputy minister for climate change) was quoted on this page as saying ‘As our children return to their lives [after lockdown], we must ensure they go back to a healthy environment where they can learn and play safely.’

What about during lockdown? When we were ‘allowed’ only one hour of fresh air per day? When many frantically sprayed and sanitised all the shopping items brought into their homes? How healthy can that have been to adults and children? Especially when one considers the growing trend in recent years for scented candles and air fresheners which can be hazardous for health.

Although Public Health Wales have issued guidance on the epidemic of vaping among children and young people, predictably there’s no mention either of the particulate matter caused by vaping.

Do not worry, though, because the Clean Air Zones and Smoke Control Areas and travel regulations will save lives, right? There is an impending, menacing agenda and it’s nothing more than subterfuge to get the plebs out of their cars.

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Nicola Lund
Nicola Lund
Nicola is a former teacher, and now a part time carer with a diploma in journalism . Her Twitter handle is @MrsLund1.. Her Substack page, the ‘Welsh Economic Forum’ can be read here.

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