Harriet Edwards – Public Affairs and Policy Officer, British Lung Foundation

  • Why did BLF decide to join Map UK?

We are the nation’s lung charity. We campaign for clean air and healthy lungs. Evidence has shown that air pollution can impact on all our health. Not only does it affect our lungs but it can also get into our bloodstream and lead to cardiovascular disease. Over 12 million people live with a lung condition in the UK; air pollution poses a serious threat to their wellbeing and can increase their chance of hospitalisation. Pollution has been shown to reduce children’s lung growth, irritate their breathing, worsen existing asthma and contribute to asthma in healthy children. Children’s lungs are still growing so they are more susceptible to pollution. Air pollution has been linked to at least 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.  It’s clear this is a public health crisis and we need urgent solutions to bring emissions down to safe levels.

That’s why BLF joined Map UK. It’s great to support innovative solutions that seek to raise awareness of air pollution. We will be offering the Tags to our supporters and hope this will help people to protect their lungs by taking cleaner routes and making greener choices.

  • What is your own experience of pollution in the city?

Over 1.1 million live with a lung condition in London. For many of the people we support, some of London’s pollution hotspots have become “no-go areas.” The pollution in these places makes it too hard for them to breathe – it therefore restricts their opportunities and independence. It is also very concerning that 453 schools in London have been identified in areas of illegally high pollution. We’re hoping to use the CleanSpace Tags to help raise awareness with schools and parents. We are calling on the national government to increase the amount of monitoring outside schools, so that parents and teachers have the information they need to protect children’s health.

  • Have you had any interesting readings? What’s the feedback from the staff using Tags been like?

Our supporters and staff have been delighted to be part of the Map UK campaign. We’re still in the early stages of data collection, but it’s certainly been interesting to see the cleaner routes from stations to our office. Many of our staff also cycle and have been shocked to see how high pollution is on some of the cycle superhighways.

  • Why is pollution data of interest to BLF?

Accessible and informative air pollution data is essential for people to protect their health. Unfortunately we know that many people don’t have access to pollution data and don’t know what to do to protect themselves.

We’re hoping to use the CleanSpace Tags to help raise awareness with schools and parents. Access to pollution data is essential and should be at the core of future solutions to tackle air quality.

  • What does BLF have planned for the rest of the year and 2017?

Over 20,000 have signed our clean air petition, and we will be handing this into Downing Street in December. The petition calls on the government to take faster and further action on air pollution to protect children’s lungs. Under current plans, a child born today would still be breathing illegal levels of air pollution until they were 10. This could have already done irreparable damage to their lungs. We will be working with our campaigners, politicians and the government in the New Year to explore how we can tackle pollution together. We are hoping to see an extension of the government’s clean air zone plans to pollution hotspots across the UK.