Showing posts with label Clean Air Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clean Air Act. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A breath of fresh air (Not)

 Since the demise of most of the smoke stack industries in Scotland and elsewhere the, passing of the Clean Air Act 1956 which was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in response to London's Great Smog of 1952. It was in effect until 1964, and sponsored by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Department of Health for Scotland.

  The Act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing "smoke control areas" in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. By shifting homes' sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires. Reinforcing these changes, the Act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased.

  The Act was an important milestone in the development of a legal framework to protect the environment. But it came rather late on after capital had exhausted its initial steamrollering of human rights and expectations of dignity in life and work and in response to the fact that the killing smogs of the day could not be expected to distinguish, which class of lungs they permeated, as city institutions demanded at least some occasional attendance from the moneyed classes.

 Since then however although there has been a marked reduction in visible smoke polution, there has been an increase in recorded invisible polution and carcinogenic particulates in the air we breathe, this time from the rapid increase in the use of motor vehicles.
FoE Scotland campaigner Emilia Hanna said it was particularly harmful for small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty.

"For people living in an official pollution zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life," she said.

"It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.

"The Scottish government and local authorities are not tackling this public health crisis with the seriousness and urgency required."
The number of pollution zones in Scotland has risen, according to new figures from Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland.
The group found that there are now 38 zones where safety standards for air quality are regularly broken - five more than last year.
The environmental campaigners warned the pollution levels were a "public health crisis".

 But it is even more serious than this. As we reported in January of last year.

In Britain, where latest figures suggest that around 29,000 people a year die prematurely from particulate pollution and thousands more from long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide gas, emitted largely by diesel engines, the government is being taken to court over its intention to delay addressing pollution for at least 10 years.

 The World Health Organisation has issued a new warningabout deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe. WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments. According to the WHO, air quality is deteriorating around the world to the point where only one in eight people live in cities that meet recommended air pollution levels.  The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

 Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, said “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous.”

 Frank Kelly, director of the environmental health research group at King’s College London, and an adviser to several governments on the health risks of pollution, told the Observer that air pollution had become a “global plague”. “It affects everyone, above all people in cities. As the world becomes more urbanised, it is becoming worse.”

 A report from the EU’s European Environment Agency (EEA) says pollution is now also the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, responsible for more than 430,000 premature deaths. “It shortens people’s lifespan and contributes to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity,” said the EEA director Hans Bruyninckx.

Trying to improve the air quality of 38 streets in Scotland is laudable, but the problem is a global one, requiring a global solution, which only a post-capitalist, production for use society of common ownership and democratic control of resources can provide.

 Working people are continually involved in a day-to-day struggle against business and government over the basic necessities of life. Hazards in the industrial environment result in disease, disability, and death on an unprecedented level. Millions of cases of occupational disease due to factory pollution occur annually. Workers are forced to breathe air highly saturated with tiny particles, leading to all sorts of diseases such as black lung, silicosis, and asbestosis.

 We have to recognize that there are forces in the society which are anti-life — the ruling class, which is content to maintain its rule as the entire society rushes towards oblivion, a force that we must struggle against if life is to be guaranteed. And in this struggle the primary question is who is going to have the power and it is the necessity for socialists to realize that, the end is life. But the beginning is the successful struggle for a socialist society. A confident, organised working class is essential for the creation of a society in which workers can truly formulate and decide between alternatives.