Weekly contribution from Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth:
Air pollution in the UK is now so bad that it has become a public health emergency, and the UK government is not doing enough to tackle it, despite having been taken to the UK Supreme Court several times for its failure to bring pollution down below EU legal limits. The government's latest Air Quality Plan - released during the General Election campaign - has been deemed grossly inadequate by many environmental and health groups, including Friends of the Earth. So air pollution is likely to remain high on the political agenda in Parliament over the next few years, especially as the environmental law firm, Client Earth, is once again taking the government to court over its lack of action on dirty air.
Eastbourne Friends of the Earth will be out and about engaging with local people during the Clean Air Everywhere Week of Action taking place between 24 June – 2 July. The week will kick off with a street stall at Bankers Corner in Terminus Road on 24 June from 11am to 2pm, followed hopefully by an appearance at the Stix Summer Madness event in Shinewater Park during the afternoon of the same day. As the week goes on we will be asking local residents what they think should be done to improve air quality around the town, promoting initiatives that have already started and which have huge potential to improve local air quality, and highlighting the fact that Eastbourne FoE's own recent air monitoring has confirmed that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution (which comes primarily from diesel vehicles) can be found throughout the town, even outside a primary school at a level that, if maintained for a year, would breach the EU legal limit for NO2 pollution. Full details of the air monitoring done by Eastbourne FoE in Eastbourne can be found on this interactive map. Some local people have done their own air monitoring using Clean Air Kits supplied by FoE, and details of their monitoring can be found here. The recent data published by the World Health Organisation that showed that Eastbourne's levels of particulate air pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) are above WHO guidelines can be found here.
The government's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) runs one air monitoring site in Eastbourne, and data from this site can be tracked here.
The week will hopefully end with a lobby of Eastbourne MP, Stephen Lloyd, - in co-ordination with other local community groups and concerned residents - to ask him to work within Parliament to force the government to come up with an Air Quality Plan that recognises the urgency of reducing air pollution levels within our towns and cities as quickly as possible. Over 40,000 people die prematurely from air pollution in the UK every year, and many thousands more suffer from asthma, heart disease, strokes, cancers, dementia and other health problems caused, or exacerbated by, air pollution.
Andy Durling, Co-ordinator of Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, said, "Air pollution is a silent, and usually odourless, killer that is now the single biggest environmental cause of early death. Reducing air pollution saves lives, reduces ill-health, and improves the quality of life for everyone. We all have a right to clean air. Let's all work together to make the air we breathe is safe for our families, and especially for our children! The strap-line on Eastbourne's shiny new promotional street signage at the town's boundaries says 'breathe it in'. Well, let's make sure what we breathe in is actually worth breathing in!"
More about Friends of the Earth's Clean Air campaign can be found here.
A few days ago, on 15 June, it was National Clean Air Day, and it saw the launch of a new campaign against air pollution, called Doctors against Diesel.