Public lecture: The health challenges of air pollution - the need for action

When and where

7 December 2017
Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, London, NW1 4LE

Past event

Public lecture: The health challenges of air pollution - the need for action

This lecture by Professor Stephen Holgate will explain what we can all do to make the air we breathe safer and how we can minimise our pollutant exposure. As a matter of urgency, we need to influence central and local government to create a joined up approach to reduce emissions, as well as assume personal responsibility to clean up the air, not only for our benefit, but also for our children and grandchildren.

6pm         Arrival and refreshments
6.30pm    Lecture starts
7.30pm    Lecture finishes

Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today. It is responsible for 9 million premature deaths each year, the majority of which are caused by air pollution. Although we can’t see, smell or taste it, outdoor air pollution is contributing to the deaths of 40,000 people a year in the UK – more than almost all other western European countries. Outdoor air pollution has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia.

Most of the damaging effects of air pollution occur across a lifetime and begin at conception with no level of exposure being safe. Both long- and short-term exposures contribute adversely to health, especially in the most vulnerable living in deprived areas and with pre-existing disease. While a number of sectors contribute to the UK’s poor air quality, road transport (especially diesel emissions from older vehicles) is responsible for the majority of disease burden and the £20–25 billion annual cost. Currently, 44 UK cities are in breach of recommended World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for air quality. Added to this are outdoor pollutants penetrating our homes, schools and workplaces, as well as other pollutants generated indoors.

Professor Stephen Holgate

Stephen is Medical Research Council (MRC) clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton with a research interest in the mechanisms of asthma and allergy and over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications. He is a special adviser to the RCP on air quality.

He has been president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the British Thoracic Society and is currently president of the British Association for Lung Research and the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum.

He has been chair of MRC population and systems medicine board, the MRC translational research group, member of MRC and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) strategy boards and chaired the main panel A (health and life sciences) of the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014, one of four panels that assessed research quality, environment and impact across all UK universities.

Stephen chaired the UK government committee on the medical effects of air pollutants, the expert panel on air quality standards, the hazardous substances advisory committee and was a member of the royal commission on environmental pollution. His contributions have been recognised by a number of awards including the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine and the J Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine and honorary degrees from the University of Ferrara, Italy; Krakow, Poland; Naples Frederico II, Italy; and Exeter in the UK.

He was a founder member of the Academy of Medical Sciences, served on its council and is founder chair of the clinical and veterinary section of the Academia Europaea. In 2011 he was awarded a CBE for services to clinical science.