Out of sight, out of mind – the myths around clean air

Lungs installation in London
Posted 19/09/2019 by E.ON

In a recent survey we carried out, two in three (63%) of the people said they don't know enough about air pollution and four in five (82%) were worried about its effect on them and on their loved ones' health.

So we're working with Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at the University of Plymouth to find ways to raise awareness of the issue, bring it to front of mind and get everyone thinking about how we can help tackle air pollution.

Our 16-foot 'LUNGS' installation, erected on the banks of the River Thames and unveiled just ahead of the week-long Global Climate Strike (20-27 September) and London Car Free Day (22 September), to give a visual insight into how high the levels of air pollution in our towns and cities really are.

People walking by lungs installation in London

World Bank data shows that 83% of the UK's population live in urban centres so making sure the air they breathe is clean needs to be a priority. Prof. Stewart said: “Despite it being invisible, toxic air is the UK's number one environmental hazard and public health priority. It demands national strategy and work to raise awareness.

“Dirty air remains out of sight and out of mind, and whilst exposure in the UK has reduced over the last half century thanks to cleaner energy technologies, improved vehicle regulation and clean air zones in our cities, we're only learning now just how dangerous toxic air can be."

So how does LUNGS help? It fills up with different coloured smoke to represent Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and PM 2.5, which are the three major pollutants we breathe in each day. Examples of where they come from include emissions from vehicles, dust and construction work, emissions from power plants and central heating systems.

LUNGS is a first step in helping people to understand more about air pollution as rates of urbanisation are going to continue to grow alongside the growth in population. 

Lungs installation London

Despite the concerns about the air they breathe, the people involved in our research don't want to move to the countryside where the air is cleaner. They want to stay in the town and cities to be close to their jobs and families, and to enjoy all that urban centres have to offer in terms of convenience.


So what else can we do to make a difference?

“Climate change and air pollution are two of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Like climate change, the deteriorating quality of our air is an issue we often can't see, smell or taste, but something to which we all contribute.

“These are global issues but ones where individuals and organisations can make a real difference. That's why we're determined to help the six in ten people who say they don't know enough about air pollution to learn more about the issues and what they can do to help.

'We welcome the UK Government's Clean Air Strategy, just as we welcome Parliament's historic decision earlier in the Summer to enshrine a 2050 net zero target into law. But these are only starting points and much more action will need to be taken if we are to have a future where everyone has the right to unpolluted air.'"

Michael Lewis, CEO, E.ON UK

To help tackle air pollution and enable people to take action themselves, we believe that government, industry and consumers need to work together. To that end, we've recently transferred all of our residential customers' homes to electricity backed by 100% renewable sources1.

Find out how being energy efficient can help clean the air and how E.ON solutions can help tackle the issue of air pollution.

infographic showing statistics on concerns around clean air


1. Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to your homes comes from the National Grid. Find out more at eonenergy.com/renewable

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