Londoners say poor air quality is harming their health

Londoners are increasingly concerned about the impact of air pollution on their health, new polling data shows, with a greater proportion of respondents saying that air quality affects the daily decisions they make.

In a second year of polling research commissioned by London Councils to gauge the public’s understanding of air quality and the effect it can have on their lives, 47% of respondents felt that their health had been impacted by London’s air quality.

Of those respondents, over two-thirds (68%) said that poor air quality has led them to experience breathing difficulties. This figure has increased by 14% compared to last year’s poll. 26% reported that they suffered from breathing difficulties as a result of air pollution, which represents a 10% increase compared to last year’s poll.

The findings also showed:

  • Nearly half of people surveyed, 47%, say that air quality affects their daily decisions regarding their own health. This figure has also increased by 8% since last year’s poll.
  • 14% of respondents said that poor air quality had affected their children’s health, an increase of 2% from last year.
  • Londoners would be encouraged to buy an electric vehicle if they received incentives, with 36% of those surveyed being encouraged by tax incentives and 31% by an improved government funding grant.
  • Over three quarters of respondents, 79%, said they agreed that tackling air quality should be a priority issue, with 43% strongly agreeing.

Julian Bell, chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee, said: “This new polling data clearly illustrate that Londoners feel that the city’s air quality is not improving and that their health and that of their families is at risk as a result. It is incredibly worrying that people are experiencing breathing difficulties, which could have long-term consequences if not addressed.

“Boroughs are leading efforts to improve air quality across the capital using the powers and resources we have available, but we would like to do more. We are calling on central government to consider giving councils the regulatory powers to control sources of pollution outside of transport and ensure local authorities are fully funded to monitor and improve air quality in their areas effectively.”

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “This data further adds to evidence that our air pollution crisis is taking its toll on our lives. Air pollution effects everyone, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, including the elderly, children and people with lung conditions.

“We need strong national policies to support local authorities. The government should use the upcoming budget to stop incentivising diesel in the tax system and put in place bold policies to protect us from toxic air.”

In order to drive improvements in London’s air quality, London Councils is calling on central government to:

  • Consider introducing a new Clean Air Act so boroughs can gain governing powers to control sources of pollution outside of transport, such as generators.
  • Ensure boroughs have the necessary funding to monitor air quality in their areas effectively.
  • Introduce a carefully designed diesel scrappage scheme.
  • Amend the fiscal incentives in place for purchasing vehicles.
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