Air Quality – a trade union issue

Air Pollution – a Public Health Emergency – Background

Almost weekly, we are being confronted with alarming headlines in the media about the toxic nature of the air we breathe. More and more scientific and medical reports point to the serious health hazards of polluted air. And because airborne pollution travels freely around the planet, it is an issue that affects us all, wherever we are.

The problems associated with poor air quality are not solely restricted to the outdoors. Inside our homes and workplaces the atmosphere can be even more toxic. For millions of workers, working outside is their job, or a large part of it, but even for those of us working inside buildings, air quality is affected by outside pollution. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution from both outdoor and indoor sources represents the single largest environmental risk to health globally. 

Workers are exposed to pollution as part of their journeys to and from work. In fact, most air pollution is created by work and people travelling to work. Because of this, air quality is a perfect example of the need to break down the division between what goes on inside and outside of the workplace.

But air quality is not just an occupational health issue – there are other reasons why this is an important trade union issue:

Air Pollution and Health Inequality – there is mounting evidence that people from lower socio-economic groups are especially vulnerable to poor air quality.

Air Pollution and Climate Change – action on air quality can support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and vice versa.

Air Pollution and Industrial Strategy dealing with this hazard can only be done effectively as part of a bigger strategic approach to carbon pollution and the rapid transition to a low carbon economy.

Course Structure

All of these issues will be explored further in this online course. It is made up of 3 sections.

Module 1 – The Causes and Health Impacts of Air Pollution

Module 2 – The Law and Government Policy

Module 3 – Trade Union Responses and Campaigns