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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Chris Whitty’s annual report looks at push to improve Bradford’s pollution

A report by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer says Bradford’s Clean Air Zone has helped highlight the city’s pollution problem, but needs to win “hearts and minds” to be truly successful.

The national report also claims the CAZ will have “limited effects” on pollition if it is not backed up by measures including more electric car charging points in Bradford, and work to tackle emissions beyond vehicle pollution.

Prof Chris Whitty, who was thrust into the spotlight during the Covid 19 pandemic, has released his annual report – which this year looks at what the UK is doing to reduce air pollution.

A chapter of the report looks into what is being done in Bradford to deal with the problem – particularly the Clean Air Zone.

Introduced in September, the controversial policy sees older or more polluting commercial vehicles charged a daily fee to enter certain areas of the District.

Although health professionals and climate groups have claimed it is a huge step forward in improving the health of the District, many businesses say the charge is a damaging financial burden at a time when the cost of living crisis is already damaging trade.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer

Prof Whitty’s report says while the science supports the CAZ, clean air policies will need to “win hearts and minds” if they need to be successful, and that many communities may see prioritising air pollution over move visible problems like fly tipping as being “misjudged.”

The 366 page report, edited by Prof Whitty and including contributions from health professionals across the country, looks at efforts to tackle air pollution in areas including Bradford, Birmingham and London.

Referring to Bradford, the report says: “Pollution is a key contributor to ill health within the city.

“Routine monitoring of air shows that both nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter are above World Health Organization guidelines across large parts of the city, particularly in areas near busy roads. NO2 is of particular concern, as exceedances of the Air Quality (England) Regulations 2000 have been identified in the city by both the government and the council.

“Pollution is linked to a range of health outcomes.

“The most recent figures in Bradford suggest that 500 people die from respiratory-related disease each year. There are over 13,000 diagnosed cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and more than 41,000 people diagnosed with asthma.

“It is estimated that a third of asthma cases in the city are attributable to air pollution. “The burden of pollution-related disease falls disproportionately on more vulnerable groups.”

The report says: “While science and evidence can help to make the case for investment and justification for change, efforts will fail if we do not also win the hearts and minds of communities.

“Understanding how to engage with different stakeholder groups with differing motivations is challenging, and messages need to be tailored to these different groups.

“The research found community priorities often centred on more visible aspects of their environments, such as fly-tipping or a lack of green space. Without also acknowledging and acting upon these concerns, efforts to address air pollution may be seen as misjudged by communities. Co-production within our collaborative approach is built on the values of trust, agency and reciprocity, which take time and commitment to develop.”

It also looks at the work done by groundbreaking research project Born In Bradford, which has looked at how pollution effects children’s health.

Prof Whitty’s report says: “Over 40 per cent of Bradford schools are located within the CAZ, with many of them on busy, congested roads. Bradford Council estimates that children in these schools will benefit from an average relative reduction in NO2 of 30 per cent as a result of the CAZ.

“This is important, as epidemiological research has found associations between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and poorer academic attainment.”

Professor Rosie McEachan, Director of Born in Bradford, said: “For many years, Born in Bradford evidence has shone a spotlight on the devastating impacts of pollution on brain development and growth of children growing up in Bradford.

“This has been a driving force for positive change in the city to clean up our polluted air and we are pleased that our efforts have been highlighted by Prof Chris Whitty in his new report.

“We hope that other areas can learn from our approach, which should see pollution levels dramatically improve over the coming years”

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