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Air Pollution

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL632, tabled on 26 May 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the coroner’s reports relating to the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah and the prevention of future deaths, published on 20 April, whether they have accepted the recommendation that the UK’s legal limit for particulate pollution should be halved to bring it in line with WHO guidelines; and what steps they have taken (1) to improve public warnings on air pollution levels, and (2) to improve awareness among medical staff of the need to provide more information to patients on the health impacts of air pollution.

Answered on

10 June 2021

Our thoughts continue to be with Ella's family and friends. We are carefully considering the Prevention of Future Deaths Report published by the Coroner on 21 April and we will respond in due course.

We know that air pollution is the single greatest environmental risk to human health, and although air pollution has reduced significantly over the last decade, there is more to do. In 2019, we published our Clean Air Strategy which recognised the need for comprehensive action on air pollution for the primary and crucial purpose of protecting people's health.

Our landmark Environment Bill delivers key aspects of our Strategy. The Bill establishes a legally binding duty to set at least two new air quality targets, through the environmental targets framework. We recognise the need to take action to reduce people's exposure to PM 2.5 and in proposing a dual target approach, we are putting health at the centre of our target setting. This approach will ensure action is taken at pollution hotspots and continuous improvement will be driven across the country. We will take into account WHO guidance when setting these targets

Defra makes air pollution information available through a range of channels, such as the UK-Air website and more recently working with Global Action Plan to deliver the Clean Air Hub. We also provide information to a network of charities (e.g. the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership, British Heart Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, British Thoracic Society and others) when air pollution levels are forecast to be elevated to ensure information reaches the most vulnerable.

The Department for Health and Social Care continues to engage with organisations such as Health Education England and the Royal Colleges to ensure that healthcare professionals are equipped to provide information and advice to those vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution. The Chief Medical Officer has also discussed this matter with the Royal Colleges during a recent meeting. This will allow patients and their carers to take steps to reduce their exposure to air pollution and give them greater power to manage their condition.

The NHS Long Term Plan committed to improve asthma outcomes for children and young people. The Children and Young People's Transformation Programme has asked local systems to prioritise local improvements in asthma care. This will include supporting clinicians to discuss the short and long-term adverse effects of air pollution in children with asthma and any mitigation strategies.