Air pollution is the health issue no one is talking about in Election 2020

29 Jan 2020

Asthma Society publishes #AsthmaMatters General Election Manifesto

Air pollution is the health issue no one is talking about in Election 2020

29 January 2020

The Asthma Society of Ireland today published its #AsthmaMatters manifesto, setting out the priority election issues for people with asthma and their families. Key among these is the need for urgent action on air pollution. About 7 million people a year die prematurely from air pollution globally and, in the first year of the outgoing government, almost 1,200 people died in Ireland due to air pollution.

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said: “The Asthma Society has been advocating for change on behalf of people with asthma for decades. Air pollution, now considered as harmful to individual health as smoking, has become a growing concern for the 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland.

Every person in Ireland is affected by air pollution, but especially people with asthma and other respiratory diseases. We receive calls to our Adviceline from people who cannot leave their home at particular times of the day or year because of air pollution. Worryingly, new evidence is emerging that identifies traffic pollution as a cause of asthma in children*.

The Asthma Society’s #AsthmaMatters manifesto is calling for the immediate publication of the long-awaited Clean Air Strategy. This strategy should also include plans to phase out the sale and use of smoky solid fuels and alongside this, Ireland needs a public education campaign highlighting the link between air pollution and health, targeted at healthcare professional and vulnerable populations.”

Despite increasingly compelling evidence that air pollution is a pressing public health issue, little has been heard on the airwaves since the general election campaign has kicked off. Both health and climate change, in fact, have been conspicuously absent during the televised debates, despite commitments from the major parties in their manifestos.

Sarah O’Connor, continued:  If we do not seek to amplify the issue of air pollution in the eyes of our election candidates, we will not see the urgent action we need to guarantee us all the breath of fresh air we seek.”

The Asthma Society’s #AsthmaMatters Manifesto also contains a number of other health related asks that will help people with asthma manage their condition, and help combat preventable asthma deaths.

Sarah O’Connor, concluded: “890,000 people will have asthma over their lifetime. This is not a small cohort of people, but it is a dissatisfied one. The preclusive cost of medications, and the absence of an integrated approach to treating the disease across the health services, is leaving asthma patients sicker than they should be, forced into hospital beds instead of GP surgeries, and often worried about the next bout of sick leave from work or school.”


The Asthma Society’s #AsthmaMatters Manifesto

1. End all preventable asthma deaths in Ireland

Conduct a national review of asthma deaths and set out a comprehensive plan to end all preventable asthma deaths

2. Substantially reduce the cost of asthma medication

Recognise asthma as a long-term illness and provide cover under the Long Term Illness Scheme

3. Immediately improve treatment of Severe Asthma patients

Extend the national funding model for high-tech severe asthma treatments
Ensure all patients with severe asthma have regular access to a respiratory consultant

4. Guarantee access to emergency asthma medication for all school children

Immediately review current ministerial regulations to allow schools and other organisations to purchase emergency asthma medication without prescription

5. Deliver best-in-class care for all forms of asthma, from diagnosis and assessment to end of life care

Publish and implement an end-to-end model of care for asthma
Prioritise every child with asthma and severe asthma patients under the Chronic Disease Management Programme
Substantially increase investment in diagnostics for children 
Intensify recruitment of specialist paediatric hospital doctors and nurses
Adequately resource e-Health as a priority

6.   Protect the right of Ireland's residents to Clean Air

Publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy
Conduct a public education campaign on the link between air pollution and health, targeted at healthcare professionals and vulnerable populations
Prioritise investment in public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure over major road infrastructure
Invest in low emission solutions across transport, housing and energy sectors
Phase out the sale and use of smoky solid fuels 
Retain the Warmth and Wellbeing scheme for people with chronic respiratory conditions and expand it nationwide

David O’Connor, Head of Environment & Planning) at TU Dublin, said: “Lives are lost every year in Ireland due to air pollution. It can dangerously trigger people's asthma symptoms and  is now linked to causing asthma in children. It's also linked to stroke, cardiac disease and lung cancer. It is essential that the next government moves to tackle air pollution with the urgency it requires and outline a comprehensive and ambitious plan to do so.”

Asthma Ambassador, Ciara Kelly, said: “My name is Ciara Kelly, and in 2018 I lost my mother to an asthma attack. I think it’s extremely important that the next government takes action on asthma deaths so no one has to lose someone close to them again from something that could be prevented.”