Air pollution has become the world's single biggest environmental health risk, and science has only recently begun to reveal its wide-ranging effects. Around the world, nine out of ten people now breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Globally, 19,000 people die each day from air pollution. The annual number of deaths – seven million – is far greater than those from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and car accidents combined.
Whilst living in London, sustainability journalist Tim Smedley became concerned by the escalating headlines regarding air pollution levels, and also by how little he knew about it. Outdoor air pollution was shortening his life – and potentially that of his young family – and yet he, and the city around him, carried on oblivious. In a bid to understand more, he travelled to several major world cities dealing with severe air pollution problems, including Delhi, Beijing and Paris, to speak to the scientists and politicians leading the fight against air pollution, and to the people whose lives have been affected by it. Clearing the Air tells for the first time the full story of air pollution: what it is, which pollutants are harmful, where they come from and – most importantly – what we can do about them. It is time to find out what's happened to the air we breathe.
Air pollution is a problem that can be solved. Clearing the Air carries an empowering message: the overwhelming majority of air pollutants are local, short-lived, and can be stopped at source; the benefits to health can be instant and dramatic. The stories uncovered on Tim's journey show how the fightback against air pollution can and does work. We can all play a part to clear our air.
Tim Smedley is an award-winning sustainability journalist. After ten years in London – first as a business journalist, latterly as a freelancer writer covering the environment – he left in 2014, fleeing the polluted streets for Oxfordshire where he is now based. At first, air pollution was just another environmental story to file. But air pollution seemed to get under his skin and into his veins – literally, as it turned out – and the more he researched, the more concerned he became. Never before had an environmental story come as close to home as this. Tim has written for the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Sunday Times, New Scientist, and most recently the BBC. Clearing the Air is his first book.
– Shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2019
"Air pollution is a serious problem that we all have the power to solve. Tim Smedley's book, Clearing the Air, shows how the fightback against air pollution works. Tim's book is action-packed and his global journey of discovery uncovers the real heroes who are taking a stand and fighting for their right to breathe clean air. Read this book and join the effort to terminate air pollution."
– Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th Governor of California
"Whether describing Paris's Journee sans Voiture or electric buses in Beijing and Milton Keynes, Clearing the Air not only suggests that tackling pollution is possible, but also shows how, in many places, the work is already being done. In a news cycle that increasingly informs us that all hope is lost, it is uplifting to read that Smedley, an award-winning sustainability journalist, does not think so."
– Times Literary Supplement
"Clearing the Air is incredibly well researched with plenty of numbers and facts to back up Smedley's arguments. This is an important book and one that I whole-heartedly recommend. Even if politicians are slow to take measures about the air quality where you live, Clearing the Air will help you to play your part in creating a cleaner and healthier future."
– Chemistry World
"Clearing the Air sets out in simple terms the monumental damage that dirty air is causing to us and our environment. It also gives us the remarkably simple, logical solutions that need embracing across the world. Compulsory reading."
– Chris Boardman, Olympic Gold Medallist and Greater Manchester's Cycling and Walking Commissioner
"Tim Smedley's indignation about the years of cover-ups and lies by governments and corporations is well-founded. There are scientific details packed between the covers of this personal account – atmospheric chemistry, automative engineering, health effects and much more. The technical details are woven seamlessly into the story. It left me with a growing feeling of hope: people around the world are demanding breathable air!"
– Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB)
"A wonderfully written book that takes you through the fascinating and terrifying story of air pollution, and explains how billions of people unwittingly ended up breathing toxic air. What Tim does so well is to articulate a simple truth that ultimately leaves you with hope: it doesn't have to be this way. Air pollution is a man-made problem and Clearing the Air sets out the simple steps that governments and individuals must take to ensure that everyone can breathe clean air. Read it and take action!"
– James Thornton, CEO, ClientEarth
"A thoughtful, worthwhile book that fulfils the important role of observing air pollution across widespread regions of the world. China is not the first country to experience the environmental impacts of industrialization, and it will not be the last."
– Ma Jun, Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Beijing, China