My first book - Clearing the Air: the beginning and the end of air pollution - was published by Bloomsbury in March, 2019. It was one of six books shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.

Like many people, I had become increasingly alarmed by the headlines regarding the health effects of air pollution. Living in London at the time, I was confronted with a jarring reality: here was a rich capital city, known for its tree-lined streets and plentiful parks, and yet it had some of the worst diesel pollution in the world. Air pollution is killing people in the UK in the tens of thousands every year, and across the world in the millions. Yet, despite being a sustainability journalist, I didn't really know the science behind these figures.

What is air pollution? Where does it come from? Why is it bad for our health? And - perhaps most importantly - what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers took me much further afield than just London, incorporating Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki and, er, Milton Keynes. While shocked by the impact air pollution has on societies, I also found an optimistic vision for how cities can start clearing the air. The answers, the solutions, are within our grasp...

Featured Articles

Is air pollution causing us to lose our sense of smell?

For many people, a bout of Covid-19 gave a first taste (or rather a lack of it) of what it is like to lose their sense of smell. Known as "anosmia", loss of smell can have a substantial effect on our overall wellbeing and quality of life. But while a sudden respiratory infection might lead to a temporary loss of this important sense, your sense of smell may well have been gradually eroding away for years due to something else – air pollution.

The toxic killers in our air too small to see

After years of headlines about air pollution, we’ve been misled on a few things about the world’s biggest environmental health problem. For example, we’re told that “PM2.5” – solid pollution particles measuring 2.5 micrometres or less – can pass through our lungs and into our blood stream.

But, in fact, the vast majority of them can’t.

The biggest killer of all never makes the headlines, isn’t regulated, and is barely talked about beyond niche scientific circles: it’s nanoparticles.

The Hay Festival: Tim Smedley talks to Andy Fryers

Globally, 18,000 people die each day from air pollution, a far greater number than those who die from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and car crashes combined. The overwhelming majority of air pollutants are local, short-lived and can be stopped at source. The benefits to health are instant and dramatic, and we can all play a part in clearing our air. Award-winning sustainability journalist Tim Smedley explains how.