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Respiratory Health 2019

Protect kids’ health – campaign for cleaner air

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Sneksy

Melissa Compton-Edwards

Parent and member of Mums for Lungs

Learning that high levels of air pollution stunts lungs, and may trigger asthma in children, can leave parents feeling powerless. But there are actions we can take to reduce our family’s exposure to toxic air, and persuade those in power to tackle the toxic air crisis.

Tips on reducing children’s exposure to toxic air

  • Keep away from the kerb when walking along busy roads or waiting at bus stops.
    • Pollution levels tend to be higher on the kerb-side of the pavement. Children in prams and buggies are particularly vulnerable as they are positioned much closer to vehicles’ damaging emissions.
  • For this reason, try to walk and cycle along quieter back streets wherever possible.
  • Avoid using wood-burning stoves and open fires at home because they produce significant amounts of harmful particulate matter.

Now, with a general election having taken place and the Environment Bill going through Parliament, we have a rare opportunity to press for big changes that will make our air safer to breathe.

Actions you can take for cleaner air

  • Walk, cycle, scoot – don’t pollute. By ditching the car for short trips to school and the shops, we can all help to reduce levels of toxic air in our neighbourhoods and get the health benefits of exercise.
  • Don’t idle. Turning off the engine at railway crossings, traffic lights and in heavy traffic will use less fuel, save money and reduce pollution.
  • Rethink home deliveries. Grouping or collecting them from a locker or, better still, shopping locally on foot/by bike/public transport will cut the number of trips by polluting vans and result in cleaner air for all.

You can campaign to make a difference to toxic air

Teaming up with other concerned parents is hugely influential in persuading national government, Councils and bodies like TfL to implement measures to tackle air pollution. Joining a campaign group like Mums for Lungs will give you access to information, resources and support, so you don’t feel alone in your clean air mission.

For example, Mums for Lungs has supported many parents to campaign for a School Street, where the road outside a school is regulated so that only pedestrians and cyclists can use it at drop-off and pick-up times. This can help to improve safety and poor air quality around schools, and reduce demand for car journeys by making the alternatives such as cycling and walking more attractive.

Members are also alerted to national and local consultations on air quality and invited to feed their views and ideas into Mums for Lungs’ responses and campaigns. This work is instrumental in encouraging support for policy measures such as the expanded Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London that should deliver cleaner air for residents and visitors.

Now, with a general election having taken place and the possible reintroduction of the Environment Bill, we have a rare opportunity to press for big changes that will make our air safer to breathe. Our children’s health depends on it.

Mums for Lungs is a network of parents campaigning for cleaner air for everyone – particularly children. Website: | Facebook: MumsforLungs | Twitter: @MumsForLungs| Email: [email protected]

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