A group of lawyers is insisting that the UK government urgently reviews its strategy for air quality.
This is due to increasing evidence that there is a correlation between air pollution levels and the impact of COVID-19.
The lawyers, acting on behalf of the Good Law Project and Mums for Lungs, assert that refusing to have a review would not only be in breach of UK law, but would also breach the European convention on human rights and the precautionary principle.
It is already estimated that 40,000 early deaths are caused by dirty air annually in the UK. Now, evidence for a link between COVID-19 infection rates, and polluted air, is growing.
According to the lawyers, the potential risk to life is enough cause for ministers to act even if the evidence to prove the link are not yet conclusive.
The director of the Good Law Project, Jolyon Maugham, said: “When there is a risk of harm to human life, the government must take measures to alleviate that risk. With evidence piling up that links dirty air with cases of Covid-19, it is the government’s legal duty to conduct an urgent review. The government says they are listening to science. They must prove it.”
Campaign group Mums for Lungs’ Jemima Hartshorn, said: “Air pollution is linked to cancer, respiratory illnesses, stunted lung growth, diabetes, cardiac diseases, strokes and many other diseases. In the midst of a respiratory pandemic, the government has to finally take the necessary action to ensure clean air for all.”
Hausfeld law firm, which is acting pro bono, sent the letter to George Eustice, the environment secretary. “The mounting evidence [linking Covid-19 and pollution] renders wholly out of date the [government’s] previous assessments of the impact of poor air quality on human health,” said the firm.
“Whilst this firm and our clients are sympathetic to the pressures facing government at this time, these matters are necessarily urgent in light of the likelihood of further ‘waves’ of the Covid-19 pandemic. The longer the government delays this review, the longer this generation and the next will suffer from the impacts of Covid-19.”
The letter calls on Eustice to pledge to a review by 23 June and publish it by September. Further legal action will be considered by the Good Law Project and Mums for Lungs if the government refuses.
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