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Cars and vans are the biggest source of toxic chemicals in our air, harming everyone’s health

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If everyone switched just one car journey a month for a bus trip, there would be a billion fewer car journeys each year in the UK

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Taking the train produces nearly 80% less carbon emissions than driving, helping to protect the environment

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If 50% of short journeys in towns and cities were walked or cycled, we could save enough carbon to power every home in Manchester, Bristol or Liverpool with electricity.

How does air pollution from transport harm our health?

Cars and vans are the biggest source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in our air – a harmful group of gases that are produced when fuel is burned.

When we breathe in these toxic chemicals, they can irritate or harm our lungs, leading to decreases in lung function and inflammation of the airways, coughing, the production of mucus, and shortness of breath.

Nitrogen oxides make asthma symptoms worse and increase the frequency of allergic reactions. Exposure to these harmful gases is linked to an increased risk of being admitted to hospital due to asthma. Evidence also links exposure to these toxic chemicals with heart disease, heart attacks and even death. 

Road transport is also a major source of small particle air pollution (PM2.5), which can travel around the bloodstream, harming every organ in the body and causing heart and lung disease, dementia, and strokes.

The negative health effects of air pollution are not felt equally. You may be exposed to higher levels of air pollution because of where you live – for example, if you live in a town or city, or near a busy road. The poorest communities often live in the most polluted areas,  and children,  older people  and people with health conditions are more at risk. 

How does transport harm the environment?

In the UK, cars and vans are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. Burning fossil fuels for transport produces a variety of emissions which damage the planet, our health, or both.

By travelling in cleaner and greener ways, we can directly reduce both air pollution and carbon emissions – and therefore help protect the planet.

How can I travel in ways that are better for my health and the planet?

The good news is that solutions to the air pollution problem caused by transport already exist. But we need to be investing in these solutions to see the benefits.

Over time, the UK has unfortunately shifted away from cleaner and greener travel options – such as walking, wheeling, cycling, and using public transport – with government investment prioritising building roads over providing sustainable alternatives.

25% of the trips we take in England are under one mile  – which can be walked on average in around 15 minutes.

If more of us are able to walk, wheel, cycle or use reliable public transport, it will make the air cleaner for us all and help to protect our health and the planet. It will also improve local economies, reduce noise pollution and congestion, and make our communities more attractive to travel around.  We need our government to be making decisions that help us to travel sustainably. 

Here are some simple steps you can take to help clean up our air:

Tell our next government to get on board with clean air: sign the Clean Air Day petition calling on the next government to ensure everyone has the option to travel in cleaner and greener ways.

Show sustainable transport some love: protect your health and the planet by walking, wheeling, cycling, and using public transport when you can.

Don’t idle: if you need to drive, try to avoid contributing to congestion by travelling outside of the morning and evening rush hours. Turn off your engine when you are stationary and it is safe to do so.

Spread the word: encourage your friends, family, work or school to learn more about air pollution and take action.