Today, the European Commission issued a statement sending a "final warning" to the UK over toxic air pollution, which it's estimated leads to two thousand premature deaths in Greater Manchester each year.
"The European Commission sends final warnings to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom for failing to address repeated breaches of air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2)" the Commission states "NO2 pollution is a serious health risk. Most emissions result from road traffic." (see here)
The UK has failed to meet legal air pollution limits for NO2 for the past six years and the last Salford City Council report on the issue stated: "Poor air quality has the potential to effect everybody's health. For the majority of people who are healthy these changes are small and difficult to recognise but for some, the effects of poor air quality are more serious, as exposure to pollution can exacerbate existing health conditions including cardiovascular and respiratory disease." (see here and see here)
If the UK doesn't clean up its air, the next step could see the matter referred to the European Court of Justice. But, with the UK leaving the EU, campaigners are calling for a new Clean Air Act so the Government can't dodge the pollution timebomb.
"We need a new Clean Air Act in place to protect the public from air pollution post-Brexit, when we can no longer rely on European rules and courts to kick the UK Government into action" explains Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth (FOE)
"It's shameful that the EU has to take legal action against the UK Government to get it to deal with the dangerous levels of dirty air across the country" she adds "Air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of early deaths every year and is harming the health of an entire generation of children. Current Government plans have been shown to be too little too late.
"With road traffic the biggest problem, and diesels worst of all, the Government must fund Clean Air Zones in pollution hot spots across the country" she insists "This would help to restrict the most polluting vehicles and save lives."
Manchester Friends of the Earth, along with a whole host of environmental and health groups, is backing this up by calling for all the Greater Manchester Mayoral candidates to pledge their support for a new Clean Air Act to replace the one currently on the statute books which is over sixty years old.
Back then, in the 1950s, after the Clean Air Act was passed, Salford became the first smoke free city in Europe. In 2017, five city leaders – in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham and Derby – have this month called for the Government to introduce the new Clean Air Act. Neither the leaders of Salford or Manchester were amongst them.
"We are asking all the Greater Manchester Mayoral candidates to join the growing number of city leaders calling on the Government to introduce a new Clean Air Act fit for the 21st Century" says Colette Humphrey of Manchester Friends of the Earth "We need urgent action to tackle this public health crisis and clean up Greater Manchester's illegal filthy air."