Put air pollution ‘warning’ labels on petrol pumps, suggest health experts

Air pollution and climate change ‘warning’ labels should be put on petrol pumps, similar to the messages on cigarette packets, according to health experts in the BMJ.

Dr Mike Gill, a former NHS Trust health director says fossil fuel use contributes to ambient air pollution that accounts for about 3.5 million premature deaths per year but current measures to curb fossil fuel use such as fuel tax and emissions standards are ‘insufficient’.

He also says the messages should highlight how petrol usage contributes to climate change, which increasingly threatens the health of current and future generations.

Dr Gill and his colleagues hope the labels would change attitudes and better inform motorists about the climate and health risks that come with burning fossil fuels.

They acknowledge that implementing warnings will ‘face challenges’ but say the initial focus should be on high income nations that have contributed disproportionately to emissions.

Their call is part of a special collection of articles on planetary health, published by The BMJ yesterday (March 30) to raise awareness of the threats to humanity and natural systems and to identify opportunities for action.

They say: ‘Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now.

‘There is an opportunity for national and local governments to implement labelling of fossil fuels in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow and in particular for the UK Government, as the host of the COP, to show leadership, as part of a package of measures to accelerate progress on getting to ‘Net Zero’ emissions,” they write.

‘When the Covid-19 pandemic eventually wanes, labelling could play an important role in helping to reduce the risk of a rapid rebound in greenhouse gas emissions as the economy expands.’

Earlier this month, the government launched a consultation on the introduction of E10 petrol that contains up to 10% bioethanol.

Unleaded petrol currently contains up to 5% bioethanol, a grade known as E5, whereas E10 is not available in the UK.

Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks. It can be made from common UK crops such as potato and corn.

E10 has been heralded by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a ‘step towards a net-zero future’ and the government says its introduction would reduce CO2 emissions from cars and help the UK meet Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets.

The government had initially wanted to introduce it alongside E5, but after a 2018 call for evidence asking how best to introduce the fuel, biofuel producers and suppliers said they did not think offering two options would be effective.


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