One in six people living with lung conditions have noticed an improvement during lockdown as air pollution levels have dropped.
British Lung Foundation surveyed 14,000 people with diagnosed conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and found 16.2 per cent said their symptoms had improved.
A quarter of those with asthma found they had improved symptoms.
There are 12 million people in the UK currently living with diagnosed lung conditions, which can be exacerbated by levels of air pollution.
Air pollution has dropped significantly during the lockdown as people stayed home. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, which comes from road traffic, dropped around 40 percent.
Among the respondents was 14-year-old Paul, who said the difference in air quality was “substantial”.
“I walk out, and I’m hit with clean air which is like a utopia compared to before; there are still problems, but you can really feel the difference now,” he said.
The British Lung Foundation called for the rapid introduction of low-traffic zones in cities, tougher air quality laws and more support for walking and cycling.
“Now, more than ever before, we have all become aware of how important it is to look after our lungs, and the government has a duty to ensure that as the country recovers from covid-19, we can continue to keep air pollution levels down,” said Zak Bond, the foundation’s policy and public affairs officer.
“For those most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as people with existing respiratory conditions, or those recovering from covid-19, clean air is crucial for living well now, and in the future.”
Several studies have drawn an inconclusive link between levels of air pollution and rates of infection or mortality for Covid-19. None have yet found a definitive causal link, and it may be that other factors such as population density are more important.
Air pollution contributes to tens of thousands of deaths a year and has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including heart disease, strokes and cancer.
More than 1,700 lives may have been saved in the UK by the drop in air pollution, according to a recent study.