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20 June 2024

Let's use our voices to clean up our air this Clean Air Day

Keep up to date with the latest Clean Air Day news

Clean Air Day, the UK's largest air pollution campaign

Air pollution is linked to 43,000 deaths per year in the UK.  The World Health Organization and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental threat to our health.

FAQs

  • Cars and vans are the biggest source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in our air – a harmful group of gases that are produced when fuel is burned.1

  • When we breathe in these toxic chemicals, they can irritate or harm our lungs, leading to decreases in lung function and inflammation of the airways, coughing, the production of mucus, and shortness of breath.2

  • Nitrogen oxides make asthma symptoms worse and increase the frequency of allergic reactions. Exposure to these harmful gases is linked to an increased risk of being admitted to hospital due to asthma. Evidence also links exposure to these toxic chemicals with heart disease, heart attacks and even death.2

  • Road transport is also a major source of small particle air pollution (PM2.5), which can travel around the bloodstream, harming every organ in the body and causing heart and lung disease, dementia, and strokes.3

  • The negative health effects of air pollution are not felt equally. You may be exposed to higher levels of air pollution because of where you live – for example, if you live in a town or city, or near a busy road.4 The poorest communities often live in the most polluted areas,5 and children,2,6 older people7 and people with health conditions are more at risk.2


1 Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Emissions of air pollutants in the UK – Nitrogen oxides (NOx), 19 February 2024

2 Department of Health and Social Care, Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2022: air pollution, 8 December 2022

3 Public Health England, Health matters: air pollution, 14 November 2018

4 Environmental Pollution, Fecht et al, Associations between air pollution and socioeconomic characteristics, ethnicity and age profile of neighbourhoods in England and the Netherlands, March 2015

5 Environment International, Mueller et al, Socioeconomic inequalities in urban and transport planning related exposures and mortality: A health impact assessment study for Bradford, UK, December 2018

6 Impact on Urban Health, Air pollution and children

7 Journal of Thoracic Disease, Simoni et al, Adverse effects of outdoor pollution in the elderly, January 2015

  • In the UK, cars and vans are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.1

  • Burning fossil fuels for transport produces a variety of emissions which damage the planet, our health, or both.

  • By travelling in cleaner and greener ways, we can directly reduce both air pollution and carbon emissions – and therefore help protect the planet.


1 Department for Transport, Transport and environment statistics: 2023, October 2023

  • We know the public are concerned about the impact of air pollution on their health, but many people across the UK don’t feel like they have the choice to travel in cleaner and greener ways.1

  • We need investment in cleaner and greener travel options so that as many people as possible can benefit.

  • If more of us can walk, wheel, cycle or use reliable public transport, it will make the air cleaner for us all and help to protect our health and the planet. It will also improve local economies, reduce noise pollution and congestion, and make our communities more attractive to travel around.2

  • 25% of the trips we take in England are under one mile3 – which can be walked on average in around 15 minutes.

  • If everyone switched just one car journey a month for a bus trip, there would be a billion fewer car journeys each year in the UK.4

  • By walking or cycling just half of our short journeys within or around towns and cities by 2030, we could save enough carbon to power every home in Manchester, Bristol or Liverpool with electricity for a whole year.

    • 50% of short urban trips in England walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030 would avoid 107,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent)5, which would power more than 244,000 houses with electricity for one year6,7 – greater than the number of dwellings in Manchester, Bristol or Liverpool8

  • Taking the train also produces nearly 80% less carbon emissions than driving, helping to protect the environment.9

  • We need our next government to make walking, cycling, and wheeling safer and ensure that everyone can access public transport that is reliable, affordable, and efficient.

  • That’s why this Clean Air Day, we’re asking the public to use your voice to call for cleaner and greener transport to protect our health and the planet.


1 Clean Air Public Insight Tracker

2 Department for Transport, Active travel: local authority toolkit (2022)

3 Department for Transport, National Travel Survey: 2022 (2023)

4 CPT, Facts about the bus industry (2022)

5 Sustrans briefing note, Investment in walking and cycling 2025-2030 (2024)

6 Ofgem, Average gas and electricity usage (2024)

7 Carbon Brief, Analysis: UK electricity from fossil fuels drops to lowest level since 1957 (2024)

8 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2012)

9 Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2023 (2023)

  • Being a passenger or driver in a car or van can expose you to more air pollution than any other way of traveling by road.1

  • Walkers, cyclists and bus users are generally exposed to lower levels of pollutants than car passengers and drivers.1

  • Everyone should have the option to travel in ways that are better for our health and the planet.

  • This Clean Air Day, use your voice to call on our next government to make walking, cycling, and wheeling safer and ensure that everyone can access public transport that is reliable, affordable, and efficient.


1 Imperial College London, Environmental Research Group, Fuller et al, In-vehicle exposure to traffic and road-generated air pollution, September 2023

  • The more cars we have on our roads, the more congested they are – for everyone, including those on buses and on bicycles.

  • If everyone had more options to travel in cleaner and greener ways on our roads, this would reduce the number of cars on the road which would actually reduce congestion and make journey times quicker.1

  • A fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.2

  • Buses, cycle lanes and traffic reduction measures are the answer to clearing up congestion on our roads and helping us all to travel in ways that are cleaner, greener and quicker.


1 CPT, Facts about buses and the myths they challenge, April 2022

2 CPT, Facts about the bus industry, 2022

  • Cars and vans are the biggest source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in our air – a harmful group of gases that are produced when fuel is burned.1

  • When we breathe in these toxic chemicals, they can irritate or harm our lungs, leading to decreases in lung function and inflammation of the airways, coughing, the production of mucus, and shortness of breath.2

  • Nitrogen oxides make asthma symptoms worse and increase the frequency of allergic reactions. Exposure to these harmful gases is linked to an increased risk of being admitted to hospital due to asthma. Evidence also links exposure to these toxic chemicals with heart disease, heart attacks and even death.2

  • Road transport is also a major source of small particle air pollution (PM2.5), which can travel around the bloodstream, harming every organ in the body and causing heart and lung disease, dementia, and strokes.3

  • The negative health effects of air pollution are not felt equally. You may be exposed to higher levels of air pollution because of where you live – for example, if you live in a town or city, or near a busy road.4 The poorest communities often live in the most polluted areas,5 and children, 2,6 older people7 and people with health conditions are more at risk.2


1 Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Emissions of air pollutants in the UK - Nitrogen oxides, (NOx), 19 February 2024

2 Department of Health and Social Care, Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2022: air pollution, 8 December 2022

3 Public Health England, Health matters: air pollution, 14 November 2018

4 Environmental Pollution, Fecht et al, Associations between air pollution and socioeconomic characteristics, ethnicity and age profile of neighbourhoods in England and the Netherlands, March 2015

5 Environment International, Mueller et al, Socioeconomic inequalities in urban and transport planning related exposures and mortality: A health impact assessment study for Bradford, UK, December 2018

6 Impact on Urban Health, Air pollution and children

7 Journal of Thoracic Disease, Simoni et al, Adverse effects of outdoor pollution in the elderly, January 2015

Resources for campaign and community groups
Health professionals resources
Resources for individuals
Resources for local authorities
Resources for schools
Resources for business

Here's why Clean Air Day matters

Illustrated teacher pointing at white board with earth and grey clouds on it

Focuses attention on air pollution.

By all acting together on the same day, Clean Air Day cuts through to new audiences.

Illustration people on bicycles

Helps to improve public understanding and increase levels of air pollution busting behaviours.

Most people (90%) now report doing at least one thing to help reduce outdoor air pollution.

Illustration of wall of Ivy representing a green screen at a school

Showcases that a cleaner air future is both possible and desirable.

As well as more EV charging points and e-bikes on the roads, we are also seeing other innovative new ways of doing things, such as the NHS riverboat delivery service

Illustration of two young people holding placards saying

Demonstrates large-scale support for clean air, giving decision-makers a mandate to implement the system changes required.

82% of people think that air pollution should be a priority for the UK an increase of 11% over the last three years.