Cleaner air: making progress with your help

By Sarah Marzouk | 27 Apr 2017
Together we're on the road to cleaner air for everyone.

The work for cleaner air in the UK is underway. Thanks to thousands of you taking action with us, awareness is growing of the dangers of dirty air - and the benefits of reducing air pollution.

While the visible smogs of the 1950s are a thing of the past, air pollution is still a terrible problem in the UK. Pollution levels have slowly been coming down, but this has not been fast enough. We still have a long way to go to make sure the air our children breathe is safe.

We’re making the air we breathe cleaner for everyone by

  • enabling individuals to monitor their local air
  • working with schools and community group to take action to improve their local area
  • challenging companies and politicians to clean up their act.

Success: Thousands in air quality testing as part of a groundbreaking air pollution experiment

Thousands of people have taken part in what we hope will be the biggest ever national experiment on air pollution - and you can too. More than 2,500 people have already ordered a Friends of the Earth Clean Air Kit to test the air quality near them.

“I’m blown away seeing how fired up people are to discover what the air quality is like on their doorstep. This experiment has the potential to expose the state of our polluted air and spark off thousands of individual stories of people taking action against pollution.”

Ollie, air pollution campaigner

The Clean Air Kit provides you with everything you need to measure air pollution near you - as well as tips on how to avoid air pollution and how to use your results to campaign for cleaner air.

When Friends of the Earth first released a limited number of its new Clean Air Kits in 2016, they were snapped up in less than 2 hours. But now, thousands more kits are ready and waiting for you to take home.

Results from the experiment are feeding into a UK-wide air pollution map, developed with experts at King’s College, London. The data will help us create a state-of-the-nation report shedding new light on the reality of air pollution up and down the country. 

Success: community groups working for cleaner air

Working closely with community groups, Friends of the Earth members across the country are successfully putting pressure on local authorities to do more to clean up our air.

In Winchester a Friends of the Earth group marched through the city centre carrying 51 tombstones to represent the number of early deaths caused by air pollution in the district.

In Oxfordshire Friends of the Earth members have set up an Oxfordshire Clean Air Action Group to tackle air pollution. Oxford is one of 10 UK towns and cities which are failing to meet World Health Organisation standards for particulate air pollution. The group is lobbying the local council, setting up community events and encouraging individuals to think about how they can play their part to reduce pollution locally.

screen shot of press clipping

Above: North Herts Friends of the Earth is one of several groups to get impressive local coverage of campaigning for cleaner air.

Success: Investigating garages removing car pollution filters

We launched an investigation into garages that promised to boost car performance by removing a filter designed to reduce fine particles of air pollution. 

The garages were using a loophole that allowed them to advertise and carry out the removal – even though driving on UK roads without the filter is illegal. We put in an official complaint. And now all garages have been banned from advertising this dodgy service without making it very clear that driving your car without such a filter is illegal.

We’ve also called on the Department for Transport to make the act of removing pollution filters illegal and demanded that it investigate the scale of this scandal.

Success: London Mayor Sadiq Khan proposes to clean up London’s buses

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan lost no time getting started on tackling the capital’s dirty air. Only a week into his new job he set out key proposals to improve London’s air.

And, because of pressure from Friends of the Earth and our allies, the mayor is including a proposal to consult on a key Friends of the Earth policy: halting the purchase of all-diesel double-decker buses by 2018 – 2 years sooner than his pre-election commitment.

This is great news for Londoners, where air pollution leads to up to 9,500 early deaths per year.

We will be keeping up the pressure on the mayor to follow through with his proposals and clean up London’s filthy air once and for all.

What next for cleaner air?

From thousands taking part in our national air pollution experiment to preventing dodgy garages from advertising the removal of air pollution filters, we’re already making progress in raising awareness of air pollution and cleaning up the nation’s air. But there’s still a very long way to go.

Cleaner air for school children

We know that children’s young lungs are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. This is why we’re working with schools to help them clean up their air.

Working in partnership with Muslim Aid, we piloted our new Clean Air Schools pack with English Martyrs Catholic primary school in Tower Hamlets. The borough of Tower Hamlets has some of the worst pollution in the country and English Martyrs was rated as having the third highest levels of air pollution of all schools in London in 2013 - with dirty air way over the legal limit.

Parents and teachers expressed their concerns about the level of pollution that children are exposed to. During the course of the pilot students learned about what air pollution is, its impact on health, and the ways they can get involved making the air they breathe safer. Many of the students designed their own posters and slogans to discourage people from idling their cars outside the school gates.

Sign up and we'll let you know when our schools packs are ready.

Diesel scrappage scheme

Before the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, lots of people bought diesel cars not knowing the damage diesel fumes can do to people’s health. Which is why it’s vital that drivers aren’t punished for buying these cars, but are instead are offered support to move away from the most polluting vehicles.

Please sign the pledge calling on the UK to ditch diesel, order your Clean Air Kit today or joining a local group to help clean up the air we breathe and protect the next generation from toxic air. And later in the year we’ll be turning the spotlight on the role of car companies can play in cleaning up our air.

MORE ABOUT OUR CLEAN AIR KIT