Davies says pollution must be seen as a public health issue and not just an environmental concern. In her 2017 annual report, Davies warned that pollution has grown to become a major threat to public health, posing challenges in areas related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She also expressed dissatisfaction over a policy that leaves decisions on reducing air pollution to local authorities because she fears this could create confusion among drivers and lead to inconsistent implementation.
She pointed out, “Instead of being seen as a health issue, pollution is often seen primarily as an environmental problem. This needs to change. As a society, we need to regain a focus on pollution as a threat to human health.”
Davies has reason to sound the alarm. The high court in the U.K. gave low marks to the government’s air quality plan. It again castigated government ministers for failing to come up with an effective plan to reduce air pollution.
Toxic air is responsible for an alarming 40,000 deaths a year in the U.K. The most affected are people with respiratory problems and children, who can be maimed for life due to exposure to pollutants at an early age. No wonder Davies wants everyone to look at pollution, not just as something that affects the air everyone breathes, but their very lives as well. “Addressing pollution is therefore disease prevention,” she points out. (Related: Study finds air pollution is more likely to make you sick than inherited risk factors (genetics).)
All these show that ignoring air pollution is allowing disease and death to claim more lives. It's high time we do something now, before we regret our gross inaction later.