The CMO’s third annual report, looking at air pollution, has been published.
This Roundup accompanied an SMC Briefing.
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald Director OBE FREng, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge:
“The rallying call from the CMO to address a major engineering challenge of ensuring effective ventilation whilst minimising energy use is crucial. It is not a case of effective ventilation or reduced energy bills. It is a case of both together. Innovation is needed, and the target has to be on existing buildings. The vast majority of buildings we will have in 2050 are already with us. These are the hard-to-tackle ones. There will undoubtedly be obstacles in bringing many existing buildings up to modern air quality standards, but with the right solutions and the requisite incentives and regulations, we can rise to this challenge. Collaborative research will be needed to devise solutions, the nature of which will not just be technical but spanning social and human sciences, and needs to involve all stakeholders ranging from academics, the construction industry, building owners and operators, the finance community, regulators, and of course building occupants.”
(Not a third-party comment as Prof Hansell is one of the authors of the report and chair of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution)
Prof Anna Hansell, Professor in Environmental Epidemiology, University of Leicester, said:
“I’m delighted that the CMO has focused on air pollution, which is one of the environmental exposures with greatest impacts on health. The CMO assembled a wide-ranging team of experts to contribute to the report (including myself!) and consulted widely to ensure the report captured the relevant and up to date evidence. In particular, the report is action-orientated – we know air pollution has many adverse impacts on health (which are covered in the first chapter). It’s really important to act on that evidence, to both reduce exposure and to raise awareness of health effects in the public and healthcare professionals.”
Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma + Lung UK, said:
“This new report by the Chief Medical Officer should act as a rallying cry to the government to be bolder in tackling dirty air. Air pollution is a public health emergency, responsible for up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK. Toxic air affects us from our very first breath, stunting children’s lung growth, putting people at risk of potentially life-threatening asthma attacks and dangerous COPD flare-ups, and can even lead to the development of serious lung conditions including lung cancer.
“Chris Whitty is right to shine a spotlight on the devastating impacts of dirty air, but this isn’t the first report showing how dangerous air pollution can be. How many times does the government need to be told that air pollution is a public health emergency before it stops dragging its heels and takes bolder action? It is now vital that meaningful steps are taken to protect public health from this invisible threat. This includes schemes that work to get the most polluting vehicles off our roads.”
(Not a third-party comment as Dr Pfrang is one of the authors of the report, Chapter 5 – Air pollution chemistry, monitoring, forecasting and information)
Dr Christian Pfrang, Reader in Atmospheric Science, University of Birmingham, said:
“This year’s CMO report on Air Pollution outlines current pollution challenges in the UK, both indoors and outdoors, and what are practical solutions to reduce their impacts on human health. A particular focus is the impact of air pollution on vulnerable groups including children, people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly. The report identifies how we can go further to reduce air pollution e.g. with improvements in engineering for transport and industry, but also by modifying agricultural practice and with improvements in the built environment.
“The report is co-authored by leading experts from across the UK providing the latest evidence on air pollution based on indoor and outdoor measurements as well as modelling.
“The report identifies recent trends in air pollution and how it is expected to change in the future. Most of the report is focussed on achievable indoor and outdoor air pollution solutions based on the latest research findings. These solutions include new technology as well as behavioural changes.”
Prof Stefan Reis, head of Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said:
“The report explicitly recommends a focus on significant reductions in ammonia emissions from agriculture, recognising their contribution to the formation of particulate matter. This recommendation further supports the emphasis of existing and emerging policies to finally tackle ammonia emissions from agriculture, which have so far remained relatively stable over many years. It is in particular important to note the potential cost savings and wider societal benefits of reducing nitrogen losses to the environment from agricultural activities beyond their contribution to air pollution.
“The new report highlights the relevance of looking at air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as two intricately connected parts of a wider system. This is becoming vitally important to avoid unintended consequences of interventions with too narrow a focus. However, it could go even further in recognising the importance of taking a whole-system view and accounting for all costs, as well as the wider societal and environmental co-benefits of approaches e.g. to reach net zero targets.”
‘Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2022 on Air Pollution’ will be published at 00:01 UK time Thursday 8 December 2022, which is also when the embargo will lift.
Prof Stefan Reis: “I declare no conflict of interest and have not been involved in the generation of the report. As an active researcher in the field of environment, I do receive funding from research councils and government sources on topics related to air pollution and health. The report uses work undertaken by my department, which is in the public domain, e.g. pp 174-175.”
Dr Christian Pfrang is an author of the report, Chapter 5 – Air pollution chemistry, monitoring, forecasting and information.
Prof Anna Hansell is an author of the report and Chair of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution.
For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.