If you think ‘The Smoke’ is an outdated nickname to call London, think again. The thick smog may be less visible but toxic air is still a significant health burden to those living in UK cities as around 40,000 British people die every year from illnesses linked to air pollution.
In our everyday working lives, we dissociate our behaviour from its environmental impact as though we’re not causing chaos for ourselves. There is a vague idea that climate change is a myth or has distant reverberations when in actuality, the climate is endangering us right now. Perhaps this is why we’re expected to remain silent when Government reports linking air pollution and mental health problems in children are left unpublished, or when oil companies lie about their CO2 emissions.
It’s also why change is imminent.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels are quadruple the legal limit of 40mcg/m3 – by simply breathing we are aiding the illegal activity of those elected to protect us without holding them to account. In April, two Greenpeace members fitted gas masks onto London landmarks to publicise the need to reduce poisonous emissions and were subsequently arrested. When peaceful displays in the interest of the public are met with punishment it becomes clear that a priority shift is due and that small scale action is the way to safeguard our future.
As CEO of Vickers energy, I always strive to facilitate an empowering company culture because the satisfaction of employees and their families is crucial. Everybody on our mission cares about wider issues rather than just money-making. We recognise our responsibility to stop polluting the atmosphere and acknowledge the warnings by economists that only carbon literature companies will survive in forthcoming years. Our environmental policy reflects this in several ways: we aim to have a more efficient sales process, to move to hybrid fleet by 2019, more activity completed remotely to reduce travel distances; remote diagnostics on our systems, the intelligent routing of sales and engineer visits etc. Sustainability measures take little effort and training to carry out so there’s no excuse not to do your bit and progress has to be accelerated.
Part of the reason air pollution mitigation deserves more prominence is the sheer body of recent research proving the impacts are too severe to be ignored, particularly if you have children. The NHS published results to show children are at risk of impaired organ development and more likely to suffer from diseases relating to the lungs, heart, and brain. Naturally, they are more likely to play outdoors where traffic congests the streets and as such they are exposed to high levels of toxicity, however indoor pollution is also a contributor unless eco-conscious behaviour is maintained in homes. For many schoolchildren, even school is unsafe as The Greater London Authority found impoverished areas of the UK are most likely suffer from toxic air, with 433 London schools situated in areas with the highest N02 levels.
In addition to bodily health, studies have also confirmed unclean air induces mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and SAD in children as well as adults. 1 in 3 people are living with a mental illness due to both genetic and environmental factors, however we generally refer to the latter in its metaphorical sense rather than a literal threat from the air we breathe. Still, the peer reviewed journal BMJ Open found ‘even a small increase in pollution marks a significant increase in psychiatric problems’, which proves even small acts of carbon reduction help to solve preventable social impacts.
UK industry can prevent further tragedy by adopting the modern business model of sustainability and in doing so counteract what Sadiq Khan has called a ‘public health emergency.’ Soon after taking up his post, he unveiled plans to implement a ‘toxicity charge’ for vehicles older than 2005 as they contribute heavily to the carbon threat. His pro-active approach is a part of the ongoing process of making green laws to encourage environmentally ethical behaviour in our homes and workplaces.
Air pollution is not a new event and therefore your business is likely to have workers within it who endure mental health issues through no fault of their known and yet we see no end to the social stigma. Added to that, energy efficiency is the key to prosperity because the children affected by these once-silent issues have grown up to assert their own requirements for which companies they want to work for and socially responsible ones came out on top of the checklist. Rather than wait for regulations to enforce air pollution intervention, it’s time to implement clean technology and make behavioural changes such as those suggested above. An extra impetus to do this is that in total, air pollution costs the economy £20 billion. We can’t afford to be negligent, literally and figuratively.
Large numbers of us have stopped smoking in recent years due to the proven links to cancerous disease and now this wealth of pollution information has been exposed we should be reducing our carbon emissions for the very same reason.