In a new social science experiment 7622 adults across seven European cities were asked about their perceptions of air pollution and its effect on health, via an online survey.
Results were compared against the actual pollution levels at the postcodes of those who responded, revealing a correlation between Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at the home address with public concern over air pollution. NO2 has been associated with adverse health effects on hospital admissions for various diagnoses, decrements in measures of lung function and lung function growth, increases in respiratory symptoms, asthma prevalence and incidence, cancer incidence, adverse birth outcomes and mortality. (COMEAP, 2015)
It is important to understand what motivates the public's concern over air pollution, the authors write, as it can lead to protective behaviour, or it can be leveraged to engage citizens and stakeholders in support of cleaner air policies. "Subjective perception of air pollution is important and can have impacts on health in its own rights."
Additional factors such as the participant's sex, having children in the household and levels of physical activity were also seen to increase the likeliness of worry over air pollution and its effect on an individual's health.
64% of those surveyed in London were worried about the health effects of air pollution. This is worse than the average of 58% of total participants from across all cities surveyed; (Antwerp 78%, Barcelona 81%, Orebro 11%, Rome 72%, Vienna 43%, Zurich 33%).
The EU-funded project PASTA - Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches - aims to connect transport and health by promoting active mobility in cities (i.e. walking and cycling) including in combination with public transport use) as an innovative way of integrating physical activity into our everyday lives.