Air pollution is a silent killer in Bristol. Poor air quality is linked to over 300 premature deaths in the city every year.
On Saturday, I hosted a public meeting in central Bristol to learn more about the scale of the problem in the city, and to discuss what could be done to reduce the pollution in Bristol’s air. I was joined by Councillor Fi Hance – Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services at Bristol City Council), Dr Jo Barnes – Senior Research Fellow at the Air Quality Management Resource Centre based at UWE, and Harriet Edwards from the British Lung Foundation.
Harriet explained that 12 million people in the UK are diagnosed with a lung condition, and emphasised that air pollution affects the development of children’s lungs.
Jo described the excellent work of the EU-funded Clair City project, where you can look at an air pollution map of Bristol. Clair City will be launching an app and a game in April 2018 which will allow you to suggest your own solutions to the air quality crisis in the city.
Fi discussed how poor air quality particularly affected different areas of Bristol. In Lawrence Hill, up to 11% of premature deaths are linked to air pollution. She also described how diesel vehicles are responsible for 96% of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions in the city. She then went on to explain that the Council had won a £0.5 million grant to work towards setting up a Clean Air Zone and that they were aiming to present a proposal to the government in December 2018.
I then explained how the government needs to take air pollution seriously as a health and an environmental crisis and how different European cities’ approach to street infrastructure helps promote alternatives to cars as a means of transport.
Over 70 people came along and posed some fantastic questions and suggestions: on how to improve communication when local pollution levels become dangerous; on enforcement of local regulations on using wood-burning stoves and idling their cars; on the importance of including air pollution and air quality in schools’ curriculum and lots more besides.
As a direct result of the event, I will be writing to the Minister for Climate Change and Industry, and the Mayor of Bristol to encourage them to take further action to help us tackle air pollution in the city. I also got lots of ideas for how we can take action to clean up the air in our city.
You can watch a recording of the event below – and do join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #BristolBreathingBetter.