Organisations and businesses across the Bristol area are coming together to mark the UK’s first National Clean Air Day (Thursday 15 June) by urging drivers to switch off their vehicle engines to reduce exhaust emissions in the city.
The city’s two large hospitals, University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and North Bristol NHS Trust are joining forces with Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council to call on drivers to help make a difference to air quality by making a small change to their driving habits and potentially cut harmful emissions.
Council employees will join the day of action by considering alternative ways of getting around the city such as car sharing, cycling or walking, and focusing on switching off when idling in traffic queues, when picking up people or making deliveries. Other locations to turn your engine off include pedestrian crossings, at red lights, bus stops and taxi ranks. Whether it’s older cars that don’t cut out automatically or newer ones where people sometimes over-ride the automatic cut out, all drivers can make a difference to air quality.
Meanwhile, the hospitals are encouraging visitors, patients, buses and ambulances visiting their sites to switch off their engines when dropping off.
Simon Wood, Director of Facilities at North Bristol NHS Trust, said:
“As a healthcare provider and a large employer in the city it is important for us to do our bit to help reduce the impact of air pollution on our patients, visitors and staff as well as the environment. We will be encouraging people visiting us, and bus and taxi drivers, to switch off their engines when they are waiting outside the hospital and urge you to consider this if you are coming onto our sites.”
Sam Willitts, Energy and Sustainability Manager for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We are very aware of the impact delivering our services have on the environment and are committed to reducing that impact. Across the UK one in 20 vehicles on the road are on NHS-related business, whether that’s staff, patients or visitors.
“Air pollution is particularly bad in central Bristol, so we want to encourage everyone coming to our hospitals to help reduce the health implications of air pollution on our patients and the wider community.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:
“Hospitals and councils are at the heart of our communities so we know they can make a big difference with small changes to vehicle movements and we hope the public will be encouraged to join us on the first UK National Clean Air Day. It is a small action but together we make a bigger combined impact. Please go to the website to see how you can help on the day: www.cleanairday.org.uk.
“The damaging impact of air pollution, particularly on our health, remains one of our city’s biggest challenges. We know that child hospital admissions for asthma are rising, especially in some inner city areas of Bristol, which are areas of high deprivation. I am determined that every child gets the best possible start in life and a cleaner, more accessible transport network, which will help connect people to jobs, will help.
“We are driving change thanks to cross-party support on this issue and we are preparing to launch a feasibility study for a Clean Air Zone in the Bristol area. It will help design the most effective measures to reduce harmful emissions. This is about working together with road users and businesses to find solutions that benefit us all.”
Bristol is working with South Gloucestershire Council on a feasibility study which will determine the extent to which pollution needs to be reduced to meet acceptable health standards. It will also look into the possibility of a Clean Air Zone, including the geographical extent of the area, size and location, timescales for developing it, whether and how charging arrangements could be introduced, what vehicles should be included and the wider socio-economic impacts. It could be completed in early 2018. The timing of when any Clean Air Zone might be introduced will be determined by the study and will depend on feedback from a consultation process.
Bristol City Council has over 400 employees driving fleet vehicles regularly, added to hospital vehicles from both NHS Trusts and potentially thousands of drivers who visit them. In addition, all organisations involved are asking their staff to consider doing the same in their own personal vehicles.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Councillor Matthew Riddle, said: “Air pollution is a risk to public health. It is known to have more severe effects on vulnerable groups, for example the elderly, children and people already suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. There are decisions we can all make to reduce air pollution. Even relatively small changes such as turning off your engine in traffic queues, or when parked, all add up and make a difference to the quality of the air we all breathe.”
The University of the West of England is working with Bristol City Council on a four-year research initiative called ClairCity (www.claircity.eu), which will also mark National Clean Air Day through events at community centres and for the Festival of Nature to gather people’s views. The project, which is funded by the European Union, is capturing the views of local people on air pollution. It involves thousands of other people in cities across Europe with the end goal of deciding the best local options for a future with clean air and lower carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, the council is also working with the NHS and British Lung Foundation to encourage people to look after their lungs on Clean Air Day.
Justin Parsons from the British Lung Foundation says “We’re supporting National Clean Air Day because we know how damaging pollution can be to people’s lung health. Toxic air, left unchecked, will lead to a rising tide of ill health for everyone, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Children, people with a lung condition and the elderly will be hit hardest. The next government must deliver ambitious plans to clean up the air we breathe. There must be a commitment to tough action on emissions from diesel vehicles. Along with a realistic scrappage scheme that enables people to trade in their old cars for cleaner alternatives. We’re calling for a new, fair and ambitious Clean Air Act.”
There’s more information on the British Lung Foundation website, www.blf.org.uk or people can telephone the British Lung Foundation helpline on 03000 030 555 to talk to someone.
Dr Jonathan Evans (Bristol, South Glos and North Somerset Clinical lead for Respiratory Care) added: “If someone has had a cough or has found it hard to breathe for three weeks or more and they don’t know why, they should make an appointment with their practice to find out if they have a respiratory condition.”
More information is available here: https://www.nhs.uk/be-clear-on-cancer/symptoms/lung-cancer#FQoGL9O1vj5h0G7P.97.