Londoners views on air quality - polling results 2019

London Councils’ latest polling on the public’s awareness and understanding of air quality issues in London has been launched to coincide with Clean Air Day (20 June 2019).

Published: Friday, 21st June 2019

Image of Cllr Steve Curran at an Air Quality Monitoring Station.
Dr Onkar Sahota, Chair of London Assembly Labour Group, Cllr Samia Chaudhary, Mayor of Hounslow and myself.

Clean Air Day is a nation-wide awareness raising campaign on the issue of air pollution. London boroughs support this with various activities, including anti-idling events and public engagement activities such as drop-in sessions for cyclists.

Air Quality is a key priority for Hounslow Council and the borough’s Air Quality Action Plan (2018) outlines a whole raft of measures that the borough is taking to improve air quality and safeguard public health and quality of life.

Measures in place include being at the forefront within London in terms of the number of Electric Vehicle charge points in the borough. The borough has also started enforcing against engine idling since March of this year. In line with the council’s commitment to providing much-needed new homes, is a focus on sustainable travel and development of transport infrastructure to enable Hounslow residents to opt to walk, cycle or take public transport wherever possible.

Hounslow Council’s new premises on Bath Road in Hounslow town centre has just been awarded an ‘Excellent’ rating by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) for its sustainability.

Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council said:

“The council is committed to fulfilling its statutory obligations and will continue exploring new and innovative ways to improve air quality. Our commitment, coupled with engagement from local groups and communities, will create and deliver environmental improvements that are essential in safeguarding public health and quality of life.

"London’s toxic air is one of the biggest health challenges of this generation. Around half of London’s air pollution is caused by road transport. If everyone makes just a few small changes to how we travel, we can achieve a seismic change in the quality of the air we breathe and all benefit.”

London Councils has this week published the results from its fourth annual poll of Londoners’ views on air quality. This year’s survey reveals that 83 per cent believe that tackling air pollution should be a priority (up from 76 per cent in 2016) and that a majority (53 per cent) of Londoners feel their health has been impacted by air pollution.

The London Council’s research shows that air quality continues to be an important issue in London, and with more and more research now being published on a regular basis, our understanding of the detrimental effects that air pollution has on society is widening. Recent research suggests that air pollution affects every organ in the body, while other studies continue to expose the link between air pollution and neurological and cognitive development in children.

In 2016, London Councils conducted the first polling of Londoners to understand their awareness and views of the issues posed by air pollution, and how, if at all, it affected their lives. This work helps boroughs in their efforts to improve air quality in London by better understanding the public’s awareness and views. Now in its fourth year, the polling shows a number of gradual trends in terms of increasing awareness and knowledge on the topic, but also a few significant differences on decision-making for example.

  • The proportion of respondents who felt they were aware of air quality issues has increased each year since 2016; to 92 per cent from 83 per cent. There is a noticeable increase in those who feel they are very aware from 2016 as well – increasing from 29 per cent to 46 per cent. More people than ever (83 per cent, up from 76 per cent in 2016) said they agreed tackling air quality should be a priority issue, with 47 per cent strongly agreeing – this is up from 45 per cent strongly agreeing last year and a baseline 38 per cent strongly agreeing in 2016.
  • This year an equal amount of people felt that cars and vans and lorries are the main causes of pollution (22 per cent) followed by industry (11 per cent) and roadworks (6 per cent).
  •  62 per cent of respondents felt that London’s air quality had changed in the past 12 months; of these over half (56 per cent) thought the change had been negative.
  •  Over half of respondents (53 per cent) said they felt that their health had been affected by poor air quality (up from 46 per cent in 2016), with breathing difficulties and asthma getting worse and coughing the most frequently reported symptoms. Whilst the proportion of people who felt that their health had been affected is high across all age-ranges, it is especially high for 25-34 year olds at 71 per cent.
  •  18 per cent of respondents said their children had suffered ill health due to poor air quality. This is a significant increase from 12 per cent in 2016.
  •  Over half of respondents (53 per cent) said air quality impacted on decisions they made regarding their health, which has grown from 39 per cent in 2016. Those most likely to say it impacts on decisions regarding their health were younger (16 – 44) and those who cycle in London (73 per cent versus 40 per cent for non-cyclists).
  •  Two thirds of all parents in London (60 per cent) say air quality affects their choice of school for their children; this is compared to 50 per cent in 2017.

Full details of the briefing are available on the London Councils website.

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