Last reviewed 12 February 2021

The elderly and disadvantaged communities across England are likely to suffer the most from “deadly” air pollution, according to a new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA).

The new Air Quality Report published this week, draws on evidence taken from health experts, local councils and campaign groups. It sets out the “moral case” for the Government to do more to reduce air pollution, highlighting that older people and the most disadvantaged communities who contribute the least to air pollution, suffer the most from its effects.

The report urges the Government to set tougher targets to lower air pollution generally, with specific targets to reduce fine particulate levels (PM2.5), in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

In response, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, said air pollution levels have reduced significantly in recent years but acknowledged “there is more to do”.

“Our landmark Environment Bill will set at least two ambitious legally-binding air quality targets, with a primary focus on reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution. As part of this, we will consider the World Health Organization’s guidelines for PM2.5,” Pow added.

There are no safe limits for PM2.5s, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that concentrations should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre. According to the EFRA report, the Environment Bill should be amended to in line with World Health Organisation-guidelines.

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said levels of toxic particulates that cause the most harm must be strengthened before the Environment Bill comes back to the House of Commons.

“Every year, an estimated 64,000 deaths are linked to air pollution disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities. In rebuilding after the pandemic, we have a moral duty to put improving air quality at its core,” said Parish.

The report also argues that the Clean Air Strategy needs longer-term funding commitments so that local councils can deliver on their legal duties to improve local air quality,