Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
“Well behaved women seldom make history”
Why are we fighting for clean air?
According to the Government’s own figures, air pollution leads to the early deaths of up to 50,000 people every year in the UK, and in London can reduce our lives by up to nine years, and causes more deaths than passive smoking, obesity and road traffic accidents.
Pollutants in the air include toxic PM10′s, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which lead to increased rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Asthma UK point out on their website that two thirds of people with Asthma report that traffic fumes make their asthma worse and that 42% of people with Asthma report that traffic fumes discourage them from walking or shopping in congested areas. This is less surprising when you consider that near the busiest roads in London air pollution regularly exceeds double the World Health Organisation’s legal limits.
Tackling air pollution is key to tackling climate change. Air pollution from cars, cooking stoves and factories may contribute as much as 30% to climate change emissions globally. And the solutions to poor air quality in London will vastly reduce carbon emissions: air pollution can only be reduced to safe levels by reducing the number of vehicles on our road.
Air pollution and its health and safety impacts are a pervasive form of social injustice – more poor people live close to busy roads than richer people and so suffer the worst effects of air pollution.
Young children in pushchairs are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on busy roads because they are much closer to the source of pollution, the exhaust fumes. It is estimated that up to 30% of childhood asthma is caused by poor air quality – a terrifying statistic bearing in mind that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day and a total of 2,270 schools within 400 metres of such roads.
Check out this video of 10 year old Nell describing what it’s like to live with Asthma, and how she’d take on air pollution if she was Prime Minister.
Investment in cycling infrastructure will be crucial in encouraging more people to use active forms of transport, and to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. More people cycling or walking instead of using cars will improve our air quality and improved air quality will in turn encourage more people to cycle or walk. Cyclists breathe more than twice the amount of black carbon soot while commuting than pedestrians: we demand commitments to protect those who choose a healthy and responsible form of transport from poor air quality. Fewer vehicles on the road will create a safer environment for cyclists free from traffic violence and the cardiovascular risks associated with breathing in particulates. We support campaigns including Love London, Go Dutch, Bikes Alive, Londoners on Bikes, Stop Murder of Cyclists and the Times Cycle Safety Campaign in pushing for safer cycling conditions.
We’re in a unique position to be able to campaign for real changes in the way air pollution is tackled in London. With the mayoral election in London on May 3rd fast approaching, we aim to create a mandate for real action on air pollution, and to put pressure on mayoral candidates to make strong election pledges for clean air.
What are the solutions?
It’s a complex issue but thankfully there are many ways of creating cleaning air in London. Our suggestions are:
- Implement an inner low emission zone (meaning fewer cars, and cleaner emissions from remaining vehicles) in the most polluted areas in London
- Greater investment in better cycling infrastructure and cycle safety
- More affordable and accessible public transport.
- Oppose airport expansion. Airports not only damage air quality through emissions from flights, but also create heightened local air pollution due to increased traffic to and from the airport.
We also need more accurate air monitoring sites. At the moment Boris is tampering with the monitors by gluing pollution to the roads around the sites. Let’s institute true monitoring of our air quality so that Londoners know how filthy our air is and how it might be effecting our health.
To fight for these changes in the way our city is run, to stand up for the rights of children, poor neighbourhoods, cyclists, pedestrians, those at risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and future generations, join our clean air actions. Visit our events page to see what’s coming up, read about our past clean air actions on our blog, or join our weekly SWAT Team bulletin by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more:
Read these articles to learn more about the health and environmental impacts of dirty air:
Are Londoners ready to die for their air quality? – Guardian
Children at risk from pollution as schools are by busy roads – Evening Standard
Cross Government clean air strategy needed to tackle pollution crisis – Caroline Lucas
Healthy Air Campaign – Environmental Protection UK
The Times Cycle Safety Campaign
The Campaign for Clean Air in London
Watch this video from our Roadblock action on 13th of July – hear what Green Party Mayoral Candidate Jenny Jones has to say about air quality in London: