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Kids need clean air

Posted by Anna Jones - 10th July 2017

All across the country, kids are leading calls to clean our air. Children, parents, schools and nurseries are speaking out.

UK air pollution is now so bad it’s been called a public health emergency, and has been breaking legal safety limits every year since 2010.  

Just like kids need good nutrition to grow up big and strong, they also need good clean air to breathe.

Research has shown that breathing polluted air can have lifelong impacts on kids’ health, and reduce their adult lung capacity by a staggering 10%. And yet we want these children to be able to grow up to be anything they want to be, even the Olympic medal winners of the future. We’re falling at the first hurdle. 

Our dirty air can cause children to develop asthma, as well as worsen and trigger asthma attacks in those children who are already sufferers.

Asthma is a horrible, terrifying illness for a child, as when an attack strikes it can feel like you are unable to take a breath. No child should suffer in this way, especially not when politicians can prevent this.

Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said: “It’s notable that so many Mumsnet users are deeply worried about air quality – but perhaps it’s not surprising. Mothers tend to be the ones organising healthcare appointments, coping with the asthma diagnoses for family members, and trying to manage their routines to minimise the damage. Lots of them say they plan school and nursery choices using on air quality data, and plenty of others say they’ve moved to rural areas specifically to get away from polluted air.”

Much of our air pollution comes from diesel vehicles on our roads. Many diesel cars are giving our much more pollution than they are meant to because car companies continue to cheat emissions testing.

In order to clean our air, we need to get diesel vehicles off our roads, and that means the diesel cars many of us drive (for which there are ready alternatives available), as well as trucks and buses. Diesel vehicles produce 90% of the air pollution coming from our roads, and diesel cars by themselves account for 40% of it.   

In London, Mayor Sadiq Kahn is trying to tackle diesel pollution by introducing a much larger ultra-low emission zone as well as introducing strict laws on new buses being introduced to London’s roads. His plans will gradually reduce diesel cars on London’s roads and encourage drivers to switch to cleaner alternatives.

Across the rest of the country, many towns and cities are planning to introduce their own Clean Air Zones, replicating some of the work of London’s Mayor.

But the extent to which each town and city is successful in reducing diesel pollution depends on the framework the government puts in place.

And so far, the government has failed to provide strong leadership for tackling pollution from diesel vehicles.

In fact, the government has been repeatedly ordered by the High Court to put in place a stronger framework to bring down illegal levels of air pollution in the UK.  

It finally produced a draft plan in May, but it is widely seen as unfit to tackle the scale of the problem and the government is being taken back to court again as a result.

In order to tackle illegal and unsafe air pollution that’s harming our children, we need the government and car companies to act.

The government must provide a solid national framework to encouraging towns and cities to tackle diesel pollution, as well as supporting the transformation of our roads away from diesel and to clean hybrid and electric vehicles.  

And the car industry must also take responsibility for diesel pollution that’s plaguing our streets and our nation’s health. Instead of continuing to invest in new diesel technology which will never be clean, it should instead refocus all its energy into producing clean and affordable hybrid and electric vehicles.

We’ve teamed up with Mumsnet to build support for our clean air now campaign. Sign up to the campaign here.

Find out how to reduce your exposure and support national and local work to cut down air pollution.

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