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New River Thames installation makes air pollution visible

E.ON has unveiled a 16ft installation which visually represents the issue of air pollution, after 88% of people admitted they are confused about air pollution and 89% would do more to tackle it if they knew how. 

Erected on the banks of the River Thames, LUNGS fills up with different coloured smoke to represent Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and PM 2.5 – three major pollutants which we breathe in daily.

LUNGS has been unveiled by E.ON ahead of the week-long Global Climate Strike (20th-27th September) and London Car Free Day (22nd September), with Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at the University of Plymouth, to help raise awareness, educate and provide practical advice about air pollution and clean air.

The new research also reveals that:

  • On average, people can confidently name one air pollutant whilst almost half (47%) don’t feel comfortable naming any
  • Over a third (37%) don’t think air pollution affects parks and green spaces and 13% don’t think it affects the home
  • Two thirds (67%) have become more concerned about air pollution in the last year
  • Over a third (36%) said that what they read in the media has made them more concerned and a quarter (24%) cited David Attenborough specifically as a trigger
  • Two thirds (62%) of parents say that clean air is a key concern for them and their families
  • Parents are more likely to tackle air pollution (92%) compared to non-parents (84%)
  • The majority (71%) think government should take responsibility for air pollution, followed by large corporations (64%) and the public (63%)

Those in big cities say they put up with air pollution due to the convenience of living where they do (24%), to be close to family (23%) and proximity to work (17%). Eight in ten (81%) say that they don’t feel like they have a choice but to live in an area with poor air quality with a further majority (82%) revealing they are worried about the risk to health from breathing in
toxins. Additionally, 45% admit to frequently eating meat regardless of feeling guilty of its impact on the environment.

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at University of Plymouth, UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society and broadcaster said; ‘’Despite it being invisible, toxic air is the UK’s number one environmental hazard and public health priority. It demands national strategy and work to raise awareness.

“Dirty air remains out of sight and out of mind, and whilst exposure in the UK has reduced over the last half century thanks to cleaner energy technologies, improved vehicle regulation and clean air zones in our cities, we’re only learning now just how dangerous toxic air can be.

“No level is a ‘safe’ level and the main pollutants are above legal or World Health Organization (WHO) limits in most urban areas. Electricity backed by renewable sources, like that from E.ON, have a real role to play in making a positive impact on the air we all breathe and is the start of things to come.’’

To help tackle air pollution and enable people to take action themselves, E.ON says government, industry and consumers need to work together, having recently transferred its customers’ homes to electricity backed by 100% renewable sources.

Michael Lewis, Chief Executive of E.ON UK says: “Climate change and air pollution are two of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Like climate change, the deteriorating quality of our air is an issue we often can’t see, smell or taste, but something to which we all contribute. These are global issues but ones where individuals and organisations can make a
real difference. That’s why we’re determined to help the six in ten people who say they don’t know enough about air pollution to learn more about the issues and what they can do to help.

“We welcome the UK Government’s Clean Air Strategy, just as we do Parliament’s historic decision earlier in the Summer to enshrine a 2050 net zero target into law. But these are only starting points and much more action will need to be taken if we are to have a future where everyone has the right to unpolluted air.”

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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