Leader's column: 'Clearing up our air inside and out'

Tameside Council's Executive Leader, Cllr Brenda Warrington, writes in her latest column that we need to continue to do more to clear up our air in the borough.

Every year in Greater Manchester, 1,200 people die because of exposure to dirty air. 

Over the past 18 months Tameside has taken the lead on facing that challenge, working with our partners within and outside the borough to clear up our air, reduce our carbon footprint and protect our shared environment.

Yet even with this pioneering and comprehensive work, there is still more that we need to do. 

A joint report released last week by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Royal College of Physicians points out, quite rightly, that we need to look at air pollution in our homes, public buildings, schools and offices as well. 

Their research makes for sobering reading. The air we breathe inside our homes can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside.

Sources of this pollution include damp and mould, tobacco smoke, chemicals from building materials and furnishings, aerosols sprays and cleaning products. 

As is always the case this pollution does not affect everybody the same, those trapped in poorer, substandard accommodation are far more vulnerable.

While there are laws that set minimum standards for outdoor air quality, there are no rules to ensure clean air indoors. 

The report recommends that local authorities should take the lead in monitoring and enforcement of indoor air quality. 

To make this effective every building, be they commercial property or housing in the owner-occupied, social or private-rented sector, needs to be covered. 

This would be enforced by measures such as: setting legally binding performance standards for indoor air quality, testing a building’s air quality immediately after their construction and at regular intervals during their lifetime, and creating a fund to support low-income families to improve their own homes.

I believe that this is something that we need to take a serious look at.

We should be arguing for government support and funding to help to make it happen.

The surge in action to protect the quality of our outdoor air in recent years has shown that, with the right levels of funding and political will, we can get a lot done in a relatively short period. 

The time is right for us to take that progress further. 

Not just to make sure that we can breathe clean air wherever we are, but to do what we can in Tameside to save planet Earth for the next generation and beyond.

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