Born in Bradford’s BiB Breathes project is a breath of fresh air for the city

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by Prof Rosie McEachan, Rukhsana Rashid, Ishfaq Vaja and Sally Bridges

In the news today, city mayors and business leaders across the UK are urging the Prime Minister to commit to tougher air pollution targets and to provide funding to improve air quality. There is now a growing body of research that makes clear just how bad poor air quality is for our health. Born in Bradford has been working closely with Bradford council to develop ambitious plans to tackle air quality within our district. As part of the Bradford Clean Air Plan, it is hoped Bradford will be one of the first cities in the UK to implement a ‘charging clean air zone’, which will charge older more polluting vehicles a daily charge to areas of the city with high pollution. There will also be commitment to a host of other solutions to reduce emissions such as electrifying taxi fleets and improved public transport infrastructure.  The changes will happen in early 2022. 

Through our Healthy Childhood theme in Yorkshire and Humber ARC, Born in Bradford will take a lead role in evaluating the impact of the Bradford Clean Air Plan. Our BiB Breathes project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Research Board, will work with school children across the city to measure air quality around their schools, and on their daily commute to school to see if this reduces as a result of the clean air plan. We will also use health data from over 500,000 Bradford residents, including families from our Born in Bradford family cohort to see whether levels of lung and heart health improve as a result of the plan up to three years after it has been implemented.  We will also work with communities across Bradford to understand how acceptable the plans are, and whether the health benefits of the plan outweigh any costs involved in implementing it. 

Professor Rosie McEachan, Director of Born in Bradford who is leading the study, said “Poor air quality is a major cause of illness, and children are particularly vulnerable to its effects. With the help of our pupil citizen scientists, our new BiB Breathes study will be able to find out how exposed children are to pollution, and how best we can reduce exposure.” 

We know that improving air quality is a huge challenge but one that we must rise to if we are to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities. Our BiB Breathes research will help us understand whether improving air quality can improve the health and lives of our children for a brighter future.

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