Funding will help councils beef up regional air quality strategies and boost public awareness of pollution risks

The government has announced it is to fund further measures to improve public awareness of the risks of air pollution, following recommendations made in the coroner’s report following the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013.

The £1m of funding for public engagement campaigns is part of an £11.6m package to boost local authorities’ efforts to tackle air pollution, with a specific focus on helping councils develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses, and communities and reduce the impact of pollution on people’s health.

The latest round funding, confirmed yesterday, comes from the government’s Air Quality Grant and means more than £42m has been awarded since 2010 to support almost 500 projects. 

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London, died of an asthma attack almost 10 years ago. During the inquest, Coroner Phillip Barlow found air pollution “made a material contribution” to her death, marking the first time air pollution had been officially named as a contributory factor in a death.

In a prevention of future deaths report released last year, Barlow called on the government to take bolder action on toxic air pollution by setting stricter targets for particulate matter. “The national limits for particulate matter are set at a level far higher than the WHO guidelines,” he said.

Accepting the findings, the government then announced a raft of measures to try and improve air quality, including an additional £6m for the Air Quality Grant scheme, action to increase public awareness about air pollution, and the consideration of a new national SMS alert system to highlight when air quality reached dangerous levels.

Today’s announcement expands on those commitments and also includes support for innovative local schemes to boost the use of green transport, increase monitoring of fine particulate matter, and improve awareness of the risks of poor air quality around schools and in care homes.

Environment Minister Jo Churchill said: “Air pollution is the single biggest environmental risk to public health. It has reduced significantly since 2010, but we know there is more to do, which is why we have doubled the amount of funding awarded this year to help local authorities take vital action.

“Local authorities are best placed to find solutions to the issues they face in their areas, and we will continue to work closely with them and offer support to help deliver real change in cleaning up our air.” 

The new funding will also contribute towards meeting the objectives of Defra’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy, which the government said has been praised by the World Health Organisation as “an example for the rest of the world to follow”. However, environmental campaigners maintain the strategy is not sufficiently ambitious and should require more urban areas to introduce Clean Air Zones. 

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