See no evil, hear no evil – the myths around clean air

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  • 16ft installation – ‘LUNGS’ – unveiled by E.ON to highlight air pollution, as 63% of people questioned say they don’t know enough about it
  • Despite confusion, 82% are worried about the risk to health from breathing in toxins, and 89% would do more if they knew how
  • Almost two thirds (63%) put air pollution to the back of their minds because they can’t see it
  • E.ON launches LUNGS alongside a partnership with Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at the University of Plymouth, to raise awareness of the need for cleaner air

E.ON has unveiled a 16ft installation which visually represents the issue of air pollution, after 88% of people1 admitted they are confused about air pollution and 89% would do more to tackle it if they knew how.

With 63% of people saying they don’t know enough about air pollution and the same percentage admitting they put air pollution to the back of their mind because it’s invisible, ‘LUNGS’ has been created to make the invisible visible and demonstrate current levels of air pollution affecting us all. Erected on the banks of the River Thames, LUNGS fills up with different coloured smoke to represent Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and PM 2.5 – three major pollutants which we breathe in daily2.

LUNGS has been unveiled by E.ON ahead of the week-long Global Climate Strike (20th-27th September) and London Car Free Day (22nd September), with Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at the University of Plymouth, to help raise awareness, educate and provide practical advice about air pollution and clean air.

The new research also reveals that:

  • On average, people can confidently name one air pollutant whilst almost half (47%) don’t feel comfortable naming any
  • Over a third (37%) don’t think air pollution affects parks and green spaces and 13% don’t think it affects the home 
  • Two thirds (67%) have become more concerned about air pollution in the last year
    • Over a third (36%) said that what they read in the media has made them more concerned and a quarter (24%) cited David Attenborough specifically as a trigger
  • Two thirds (62%) of parents say that clean air is a key concern for them and their families
    • Parents are more likely to tackle air pollution (92%) compared to non-parents (84%)
  • The majority (71%) think government should take responsibility for air pollution, followed by large corporations (64%) and the public (63%)

Those in big cities say they put up with air pollution due to the convenience of living where they do (24%), to be close to family (23%) and proximity to work (17%). Eight in ten (81%) say that they don’t feel like they have a choice but to live in an area with poor air quality with a further majority (82%) revealing they are worried about the risk to health from breathing in toxins. Additionally, 45% admit to frequently eating meat regardless of feeling guilty of its impact on the environment.

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience at University of Plymouth, UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society and broadcaster said; ‘’Despite it being invisible, toxic air is the UK’s number one environmental hazard and public health priority3. 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 cities4, we’re only learning now just how dangerous toxic air can be.

“No level is a ‘safe’ level and the main pollutants are above legal or World Health Organization (WHO) limits in most urban areas5. Electricity backed by renewable sources, like that from E.ON, have a real role to play in making a positive impact on the air we all breathe and is the start of things to come.’’

To help tackle air pollution and enable people to take action themselves, E.ON says government, industry and consumers need to work together, having recently transferred its customers’ homes to electricity backed by 100% renewable sources.

Michael Lewis, Chief Executive of E.ON UK says: “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 do 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.”

Visit eonenergy.com/clean-air or search ‘E.ON Clean Air’ to find out how being energy efficient can help clean the air and how E.ON solutions can help tackle the issue of air pollution.

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Notes to editors

  1. Research conducted by Cenuswide with 2,322 people across the UK in August 2019.
  2. Three major sources of air pollutants, detailed as per DEFRA Clean Air Strategy 2019.
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/26/action-on-air-pollution-works-but-far-more-is-needed-study-shows
  4. Carnell et al. 2019. Modelling public health improvements as a result of air pollution control policies in the UK over four decades–1970 to 2010. Environmental Research Letters. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab1542
  5. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution
  • E.ON supports residential customers by installing solar panels, batteries, heat pumps, and electric vehicle charging as well as providing advice on how to improve energy efficiency, so people can use less power. E.ON also provides customers’ homes with electricity backed 100% by renewable sources, helping to drive further investment in cleaner generation for the UK’s energy system. E.ON is working with industry partners to make buildings smarter and more intuitive, to allow businesses to take control of their energy – producing it themselves and even taking an active part in helping to run the energy system more efficiently – as well as making charging an electric vehicle possible for everyone. At a city level, E.ON is UK leader in district heating schemes which provide a lower emission, more efficient supply of heating and hot water, often to entire communities.

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