A new group monitoring Waltham Forest’s air pollution urges parents to leave cars at home, writes Linsey Wynton
At least 5,000 children across Waltham Forest plan to walk, scoot and cycle to school demanding clean air.
The mass action on Thursday 15th June – ‘Waltham Forest Clean Air Day’ – follows evidence that air pollution in our borough is at dangerously high levels.
Nitrogen dioxide toxins at eight schools, nurseries, after-school clubs, and further education centres in Waltham Forest, exceed the safe legal limit of 40micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to a recent Greenpeace investigation. And levels at scores more schools and nurseries are close to illegal, research commissioned by the Mayor of London found.
Children and parents from more than 20 local schools are expected to take part in the event next week. It is part of the first National Clean Air Day, which is backed by the Royal College of Physicians, the British Lung Foundation, many NHS trusts, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Organiser Charlotte Schilcher has been helping to record air pollution levels in the borough with a group called Waltham Forest Cares For Clean Air. She said: “We monitored pollution hot spots in 90 parts of the borough and found worrying results. The high levels of pollution are linked to an increase in asthma and respiratory conditions and other health problems.”
Nationally 40,000 deaths a year are linked to air pollution. World Health Organisation director general, Dr Margaret Chan, says: “Children’s developing organs and immune systems – and smaller bodies and airways – make them especially vulnerable to dirty air.”
Larissa Lockwood, from environmental change charity Global Action Plan, which is co-ordinating the action in Waltham Forest, says that vehicle occupants inhale air pollution through their vehicle’s fan. She added: “Some people need to drive to school, but many don’t. The school run is a huge contributing factor to local air pollution. Car drivers and passengers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist.”
Children taking part in this month’s clean air action will wear blue wristbands emblazoned with the words: “Say yeah to clean air”. They can then tell their friends and teachers about the risks of unnecessary air pollution.
Fundraising for the wristbands has come from parents and local businesses, including the Queen’s Arms pub in Walthamstow, children’s clothing designer Indikidual, and Stow Brothers estate agents. It is supported by Safer to School Waltham Forest, a campaign to improve road safety, reduce air pollution and provide more bike and scooter racks at schools.
For more information on Safer to School Waltham Forest: