New book is breath of fresh air

Tim Smedley and a copy of cleaning the air
Tim Smedley and a copy of cleaning the air Image credit:

In March 2014 sustainability journalist Tim Smedley helped his wife and new born baby out of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, unaware that he was taking them along one of the most polluted roads, in one of Europe’s most polluted cities, in the middle of a month-long air pollution episode that would cause 600 deaths and 1,570 emergency hospital admissions in London alone.


It was an episode that the government would blame on “Saharan Dust” until 2016. For years Tim had covered environmental issues for the Guardian, Financial Times, Sunday Times and the BBC, but, like many, had overlooked the most immediate issue of all – the air we breathe.

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, and 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. But where are the public health warnings?

Amidst escalating headlines and the growing concerns of parenthood, Tim resolved to leave London for Oxford, and to find out more about this invisible killer. The result was Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution. In the book, Tim travels around the world to cities with severe air pollution problems including Delhi, Beijing and Paris; he speaks to scientists monitoring the problem and the citizens suffering the consequences of indifferent corporations and governments turning a blind eye.

Tim tells 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. Amidst terrifying statistics Tim uncovers the hope that remains for the planet – he tells inspiring stories of how cities like Mexico City have drastically reduced air pollution, meets the people trying to make lasting change, and outlines blueprints to help readers take the problem into their own hands and improve the situation for themselves, their family, and their local community.

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 with his wife and two daughters.

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 and was released in hardback in 2019.

Clearing the Air is on sale now published by Bloomsbury Sigma priced £19.99

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