Switch off to take care of your air

PUBLISHED: 7 October 2020

Date issued: 7 October 2010 

A new Colchester-wide campaign has launched today, National Clean Air Day, to encourage drivers to switch off their car engines while they wait at traffic lights, level crossings or outside schools, to improve their own health and help reduce air pollution in the town. 
The campaign, CAReless POLLUTION, comes as research(1) shows 87% of local people are concerned about air quality in Colchester and 41% think the town is highly polluted.  
CAReless POLLUTION is urging drivers to adopt better driving habits and switch off their engines while waiting, in order to reduce the risks associated with breathing in polluted air. Research carried out by the University of Surrey has found that pollution inside a stationary car with the engine running is seven times higher than the air pollution outside the car(2).   
To visually demonstrate the exhaust fumes that accumulate inside cars, a car filled with coloured smoke has been placed in Culver Square to mark the campaign launch. While the smoke inside this car is visible and harmless, the public are being urged to remember that exhaust fumes inside your car are invisible but can be harmful to your health, with pollution linked to a range of conditions from asthma to heart disease(3).  
Currently only 15% of drivers regularly switch off their engine when their car is not moving and 20% override their car's automatic switch off technology(1). Switching off your car engine reduces emissions which brings an important health benefit to everyone inside the car and could save you money on fuel.  
Eleanor lives on East Hill with her young family. She said: “I am constantly worried about the quality of our air, particularly when cars are queuing outside our house with their engines running. The air even tastes bad and we must keep our windows closed at home. If everyone made one small change by switching off their engines while waiting, it would make a huge difference to the air that we all breathe.”
Councillor Martin Goss, Portfolio Holder for Waste, Environment & Transportation, added: “During lockdown there were significant improvements in Colchester's air quality and local people are being encouraged to keep up positive habits to support their health. This could include switching from car driving to cycling and walking, as well as adopting new helpful driving habits by switching off their car engines when stationary which has been proven to reduce pollution by up to 30%.”
Funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, CAReless POLLUTION will run until May 2021 and includes events in and around Colchester working closely with local schools and businesses to change people's car driving behaviour. New road signs will also be appearing around Brook Street and the East Street level crossing from November, subject to planning permission being granted, to remind drivers to switch off their engines.  
Find out more about CAReless POLLUTION at www.colchester.gov.uk/cleanair. 


  • The CAReless POLLUTION campaign is part of a range of Council projects aimed at improving air quality including: 
    • 3PR, an initiative to prevent inconsiderate, illegal and dangerous parking around schools; 
    • Trial of new road signs placed around Brook Street and the East Street level crossing from November to remind drivers to switch off their engines – subject to planning permission being granted; 
    • eCargo bikes, a fleet of electric delivery bikes for businesses to carry out daily activities including deliveries and collections around the town; 
    • Partnership working with ECC's Safer Cleaner Greener project, a travel safely scheme of new lanes for walking/cycling to encourage healthier and greener ways of travelling. Air pollution reduces life expectancy and is linked to 1 in 20 deaths in Colchester(4)
  • It is recognised as a contributing factor in the development of lung conditions, heart disease and cancer. There is also evidence from studies highlighting possible links between air pollution and diabetes, dementia and underweight births(5)
The main source of Colchester's air pollution is exhaust fumes, namely Nitrogen Dioxide. Road traffic is estimated to contribute to 80% of nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide at the roadside from exhaust emissions(6)
  1. Clean Air Survey, Colchester Borough Council, October 2019 – January 2020 
  2. Concentration dynamics of coarse and fine particulate matter at and around signalised traffic intersections, Kumar P. & Goel A., University of Surrey, 2016 
  3. Royal College of Physicians, 2016 
  4. Public Health England, 2014 
  5. Royal College of Physicians, 2016 
  6. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs; Department for Transport, 2017 

Page last reviewed: 7 October 2020


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