Council announces air quality alerts and breakthrough medical conference to mark Clean Air Day 2022
Leeds City Council has marked Clean Air Day 2022 by launching a new email alert service to help protect residents when high levels of pollution are forecast by the Met Office.
The local authority approved an ambitious new air quality strategy and a wide-ranging action plan last year that aims to see pollution reduced to meet stricter targets than the national standard.
As well as pledging to tackle emissions at source from transport, homes, and businesses the Leeds Air Quality Strategy 2021-2030 also included a commitment to work with the health and care sector to raise awareness of the health impacts of poor air quality within the workforce and to support vulnerable residents understand how to protect themselves from dirty air.
On most days, air pollution in Leeds is classed as ‘low’ on the Daily Air Quality Index—a metric which, like the UV index does for sun intensity, provides a simple measure of outdoor pollution levels.
However, like other parts of the UK, the city occasionally experiences temporary periods with higher levels of air pollution due to a combination of man-made and environmental factors during which some people may experience new or worse health symptoms.
Children, older people, and adults who are pregnant or live with existing medical conditions have been identified as particularly vulnerable.
By encouraging people to follow the official public health advice and to protect others by reducing their contribution to air pollution when local air quality is poor, the council expects the new alert service will—alongside other initiatives—support efforts to reduce the 5.7% of deaths in Leeds that can be linked to dirty air each year. Alerts will also be shared via the authority’s main social media channels.
Residents can read advice on how to protect themselves from air pollution as well as sign up to the free high pollution alert service on the council’s website at: www.leeds.gov.uk/cleanair.
Separately, Leeds City Council has also announced plans to host a bespoke online conference in October bringing together health workers and air quality experts to help improve patient outcomes nationwide. The authority believes it to be the first air quality focused medical conference of its kind.
Every Breath You Treat will enable health professionals from across the UK to learn about cutting-edge research and evidence exploring air pollution’s effects on health, from as early as preconception to the later years of life. The event has been accredited by the Royal College of Physicians.
In addition the council is also working with Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, the Leeds Public Health Resource Centre and local primary care networks to equip doctors and nurses with 7,000 patient-friendly leaflets developed by environmental charity Global Action Plan featuring information and advice on air pollution.
Since the air quality strategy was approved in July, a range of highways improvements designed to promote and enable cleaner, greener transport have already been completed as part of the Connecting Leeds transport programme.
Among other actions, the council has also continued to improve electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support the nearly 30,000 (and growing) plug-in vehicles registered in Leeds and has shared plans for a docked public e-bike hire scheme earlier this year.
Councillor Helen Hayden, executive member for infrastructure and climate, said:
“Leeds’ air quality has improved significantly in recent years thanks to a citywide effort. However, air pollution is sadly still linked to more than 5% of resident deaths each year.
“Every day should be a Clean Air Day and that is why this council is working alongside our partners to do everything we can to progress our air quality action plan as quickly as possible.
“Residents can also play their part too—for example by walking and cycling more often, burning less often, and turning off engines when parked.”
Councillor Salma Arif, executive member for public health and active lifestyles, said:
“I am really pleased to see the council and health partners working together to raise awareness of air pollution and help people to protect themselves.
“Polluted air harms everyone, but some people are at a greater risk. It’s vitally important that we help those vulnerable people to be aware of this risk and—as important—know what they can do about it. Alongside this council’s efforts to reduce pollution in the first place, this partnership work should make a real difference.
“I would strongly encourage every resident, especially those at greater risk, to sign up to our new pollution alert service online today at www.leeds.gov.uk/cleanair.”