By Dr Alec McLean, EPS trustee
EPS attended the Asthma + Lung UK reception at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 17th May.
Sarah Woolnough, the Chief Executive, and Joseph Carter, the Head of Devolved Nations, outlined how the recently rebranded charity is looking at the lung health of society as a whole in addition to those people where are currently afflicted.
This is clearly in line with emerging research data, reports and press articles that present very gloomy data on the state of air pollution in the UK and the staggeringly high percentage of the population exposed to toxic pollutants.
These risks are real as conditions such as Pulmonary Fibrosis, COPD and asthma can be caused, advanced or exacerbated by air pollution.
Asthma + Lung UK is looking to reduce lung deaths by 20% by 2027, an ambitious aim. This will require support across a range of groups including government bodies, charities, patient groups and the NHS. As such, it was very welcoming to see Emma Harper MSP and Alexander Stuart MSP provide strong cross-party support to Asthma + Lung Health in their speeches.
Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health, told the audience that 368,000 people in Scotland were affected by asthma or COPD and praised Asthma + Lung UK for providing clear information to provide people with the conditions the knowledge about how to access early medical interventions.
She pledged the Scottish Government was targeting a smoking rate of five per cent of the population by the 30th anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places which will come in 2035. She said the government’s Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 (CAFS 2) strategy and its work to introduce four Low Emission Zones in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh from June 1 2022 would help people with respiratory and lung and heart conditions.
The audience was shocked to learn from Dr Tom Fardon, Clinical Lead on the Scottish Respiratory Advisory Committee, 80% of the population of Jordan still smoke cigarettes. He told those listening, who included the former Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie MSP, and a representative from ASH Scotland, that ‘a smoke-free Scotland is a target to push for.’
There were also moving talks by those affected by air pollution including Linda McLeod of Breathe Easy Clackmannanshire and the campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi Debrah. The latter gave a pre-recorded video presentation, on the need for all to breath clean air. Rosamund leads the Ella Roberta Family Foundation that is named after her daughter who suffered from asthma. Ella became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate. Rosamund said: “Everybody in the UK should breathe the same air. It should not be about where you live.
Mr Carter said the LEZs will help bring about cleaner, greener cities with ‘clean air that’s better for our lungs.’ He said it is incumbent on all of us to ‘protect future generations from air pollution and protect their health.’
Asthma + Lung UK was formerly the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK. The new organisation aims to provide better services for the one in five people in the UK affected by lung conditions.
Thanks to Gareth Brown, Policy & Public Affairs Officer for Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, for organising this event.
About the author
Dr Alec McLean is a trustee of Environmental Protection Scotland. He has worked in the fields of respiratory medicine and allergy for over 40 years, in both the academic and private sector, and has a great interest on the environment and lung health. He is currently a member of PhD Review Panel at Medical Research Scotland