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World COPD day – Greater Manchester needs clean air!

news release

Ahead of world COPD day on Wednesday 20th November, Manchester Friends of the Earth are calling on all candidates seeking to be elected as Greater Manchester MPs  to support urgent action to reduce the illegal levels of air pollution across Greater Manchester. [1]

As a person ages, their lungs function less effectively, in some cases leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

It is estimated that COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) affects 1.2 million people in the UK, and millions more have COPD but don’t even know it.   It is a progressive condition, which means there is currently no cure, and everyday tasks can become a challenge. 

The Greater Manchester city-region has the second highest admission rates for COPD in England and it is estimated that the cost of managing COPD-related hospital admissions and medications for Greater Manchester is around £73 million each year, with further indirect costs estimated to be as much as £1.8 billion.  [2]    

A recent study found that air pollution can accelerate the onset of these diseases by ageing the lungs considerably over a period of decades.  The research highlighted that air pollution will prematurely age the lungs of the average UK citizen by more than four years over the course of their lifetime – raising the risk of chronic lung disease. [3]

Along with most cities in the United Kingdom, Greater Manchester has failed to meet legal limits for air quality since 2010.

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan, which is expected to go out for consultation in January 2020, accepts that air pollution will not reach legal levels until 2024.  This means that a child born in 2019 will be five years old before they breathe legal (but not safe) air. [4]

Catherine Thomson from Manchester Friends of the Earth Clean Air campaign said:

“Alongside the Climate Emergency that local councils have declared, Greater Manchester needs to recognise that air pollution is a Public Health Emergency and we need urgent and effective action to ensure we all have clean and safe air to breathe.”

The current GM Clean Air plan does not cover all polluting vehicles even in the areas with the highest levels of air pollution such as Manchester City Centre.  

The inclusion of private cars in the Clean Air Zone scheme would allow Greater Manchester to deliver cleaner and safer air as quickly as possible, which is both essential for reaching legal targets and to protect the most vulnerable people’s health.  

It is also proposed that vans, minibuses and  motorhomes will not be included until 2023.  

Catherine Thomson added: “Air pollution is an urgent problem that is affecting the health of the people of Greater Manchester right now, and these vehicles should not be left out from the scheme for an extra two years.”

Manchester Friends of the Earth calls on parliamentary candidates to support  the following measures to tackle air pollution in Greater Manchester and across the UK:

* urge the Greater Manchester Mayor and local council leaders to include all polluting vehicles in the GM Clean Air Zone proposal.

 a new Clean Air Act making a legally binding commitment to meet World Health Organization guidelines for particulate matter by 2030 and enshrining the right to breathe clean air into domestic law.

* to set a 2030 cut-off date for the sale of petrol and diesel cars, vans and buses.


Contact for comments:   Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth, mobile: 07951 642858.   Email:

Notes for editors
1) See British Lung Foundation.

2) See Health Innovation Manchester  

See also Public Health England: Inhale – INteractive Health Atlas of Lung conditions in England data.  

3) See

4) See

5)  Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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