London's Oxford Street is a scary place - and that's not because of the swarms of shoppers elbowing their way to the Topshop sale. Ok, it's partly because of that. But mainly, it's because of the illegal levels of pollution that sits heavily in the air year round. In fact, in 2018, air pollution on Oxford Street breached EU nitrogen dioxide limits 80% of the time.
And it's not just Oxford Street. According to the , air pollution was responsible for seven million premature deaths world-wide. Over 600,000 of these were children under five years old. These shocking statistics are the reason that this year's World Environment Day is themed around raising awareness in an attempt to tackle the global threat of air pollution.
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While the issue of pollution has hit mainstream when it comes to skincare, and beauty brands have been quick to offer topical protection and anti-oxidant rich solutions to combat resulting free-radical damage. But the problem goes far, far deeper than skin.
The toxic chemicals in the air, including particle matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), are produced by transport, agriculture, power generation, burning fuel for cooking as well as other industrial sources and cause an array of life-threatening medical conditions.
The chemicals penetrate the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections like pneumonia.
While the UK has made legislative changes that have seen improvements across the country, the problem is still prolific world-wide. In low and middle income countries account for over 90% of air pollution-related deaths. This is not only due to outdoor air pollution resulting from industry and transport, but also due to the fact that many people are still using solid fuels, like wood, charcoal, and coal as well as kerosene in open fires and inefficient stoves to cook their food. These methods of cooking produce huge amounts of indoor, domestic pollution, causing 3.8 million premature deaths every single year.
In partnership with , this World Environment Day invites everyone to join a global campaign for cleaner air by joining the . The challenge involves posting photos wearing jazzed-up or self-made pollution masks, tagging three people you would like to challenge to do the same, along with the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay and #BeatAirPollution.
The campaign also encourages people to pledge to action a change that will help beat air pollution in your area, whether that be walking instead of driving or switching to a smart electricity meter.