ALL of us have heard of air pollution but few can explain in detail the major sources of it or the damage that it can cause.

Air pollution is not just caused by emissions from cars; the single largest cause of air pollution in Wales is wood burning – with car emissions and smoking being only the second and third largest contributors respectively.

The quality of the air we breathe plays a major role in our lives. It affects our long-term health and prolonged exposure to poor quality air can lead to major lung conditions; including asthma, COPD, and some forms of lung cancer.

In many places in Wales, the level of air pollution is above World Health Organisation limits. This means that every day people are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution, and this contributes to the growing number of people in Wales (currently one-in-10) who are living with a lung condition.

Air pollution is also bad for our planet. Rising levels of carbon emissions are one of the major contributors to climate change and it is impacting on nature all around us. This is demonstrated by the rise in flooding across Wales and the threat to our biodiversity.

With all of this in mind, our politicians must take action to clean up our air and ensure everyone can live a healthy and active life with clean air to breathe.

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It’s very disappointing that the Welsh Government couldn’t fulfil its promise to pass a Clean Air Act this Senedd term. However, we are glad that we now have a draft white paper published, which sets out the framework for a new act and lays the groundwork for passing the act, in full, quickly after the election.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve shown that things don’t have to be the way they are. A focus on active travel (walking and cycling) and the growth of working from home has allowed people to reclaim the streets and reduce their reliance on their cars.

We must harness these changes and embrace a new way of living, one that champions a cleaner, greener, and healthier lifestyle.

It’s vital that clean air and lung health remain a top priority for the new Welsh Government, no matter what form it may take. It’s also important that politicians of all sides continue to work together on this, to further the growing cross-party consensus and deliver real change.

With all four major political parties already backing our calls for action, Senedd candidates from all parties must strike while the iron is hot and pledge to bring forward a new Clean Air Act within the first 100 days of the new Senedd.

We cannot afford to wait; people’s lives depend upon it.