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The importance of understanding air pollution in nursing practice

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Air pollution There is no systematic education programme for nurses about the effect of air pollution on health

Air pollution is harmful for everyone, but it particularly affects the poorest and the most vulnerable, i.e. it contributes to health inequality. This article will identify those vulnerable groups and set out what nurses can do to advise people and communities, develop strategies to address it and avoid contributing further to the problem.

Currently there is no systematic education programme for nurses about the effect of air pollution on health.1 This is the first of two articles to help arm nurses with some fundamental information. This article focuses on outdoor air pollution and a second article will focus on indoor air pollution.

Governments in England, Scotland and Wales have all produced strategies to reduce air pollution (with Northern Ireland’s being drafted), focusing on implementing clean air zones, low emission zones and phasing out the sales of polluting vehicles. Despite these actions, air pollution levels remain in dangerous levels.2 At national level, the reason for this seems to be that national strategy doesn’t have a focus on public health and that action does not seem to be coordinated across government departments. At local level, such national strategies do not make their way into clinical pathways.2

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