Clean Air Day is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign, bringing together communities, businesses, schools and the health sector. In 2022, the RCP is doing a number of things to improve knowledge of the impact of air pollution on health.
Prescribing clean air is central to the RCP’s work to improve public health. In 2016 we published Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, estimating that around 40,000 premature deaths and 20,200 hospital admissions could be attributed to air pollution every year in the UK. We followed that with Reducing air pollution in the UK: Progress report 2018, saying that the immediate and robust action needed from government had not materialised.
This work has been led by our special adviser on air quality, Professor Sir Stephen Holgate. Professor Holgate is often called on to speak about air pollution in the media, reminding the government that air pollution is a health issue.
Preventing future deaths from air pollution: progress report
In 2021 the Inner South London assistant coroner issued a regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths following the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. The RCP was one of the organisations required to respond to their concern that “the adverse effects of air pollution on health are not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical and nursing professionals.”
In our response, we said that we would work with specialist societies, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and other royal college partners, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and others to do various things. Today we have published a progress report.
We continue to urge government to place ever tighter restrictions on polluting activity. This week we will be bringing together the chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, officials from the Department for Health and Social Care, campaigners and royal colleges to discuss progress.
We are also responding to the government’s consultation on environmental targets. You can find out more about that in the progress report.
Communicating the adverse effects of air pollution on health
When we responded to the coroner, we said we would produce and actively promote resources. These resources would help medical professionals better understand the impacts of pollution and have conversations with patients and their families about avoiding air pollution and mitigating its impacts.
The RCP is a leading member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC). In 2021, UKHACC worked with Global Action Plan and Defra to produce resources that will help healthcare professionals have conversations with patients and their families. These sit alongside the GAP Clean Air Hub, which aims to collect ‘everything you need to know about air pollution’ in one place.
We have written to all our members to draw their attention to these and Clean Air Day resources and urge them to make use of them. We have also highlighted:
- our new podcast episode
- our health inequalities podcast episodes focusing on air pollution and sustainability
- the Samuel Gee Lecture 2022, Air pollution: the greatest environmental health challenge of our time
- our Parliamentary briefings and submissions to consultations related to air pollution.