Clean air must be our highest priority

Clean air must be our highest priority

It was son’s birthday recently. We looked through his baby photos and I remembered the overwhelming urge I had to protect him from the moment he was born. I recognised his vulnerability and that as an adult I wanted to protect and provide for him.

As parents we want the best for our children. We take many precautions to protect, support and educate our children to enable them to thrive and grown into happy and healthy adults.

It all starts the moment our child comes into the world. We hold our breath as our baby fills its tiny lungs for the very first time and releases the air out with a cry. We are relieved to hear they can perform this most basic human function – to breathe.

Breathing air is so fundamental, perhaps we’ve taken it for granted, but not any air, ‘clean air’. So how have we allowed our air to become so polluted that it damages our children’s health?  Why is clean air not our highest priority?

Air pollution is responsible for 9,500 premature deaths in London each year and detrimentally affects children even before they are born with harmful particles being able to get in to their body in the womb. A quarter of UK pupils attend schools where air pollution is over World Health Organisation limit, this is particular high in London.

In Islington 50% of air pollution comes from traffic. Our borough is also one of the most green deprived in London, only 13% of land in the borough is green space. We do not have enough trees to absorb the amount of carbon being pumped in to the air.  We can see the impacts poor air quality has by the huge numbers of children suffering from asthma. Right now getting ‘fresh air’ is not an option for children in Islington.

However, during lockdown we had a rare opportunity to experience life with less traffic and cleaner air. There has been a huge increase in awareness about the harmful health impacts caused by air pollution. It was a wake-up call we can’t afford to ignore.

Clean air is a priority for all our health and wellbeing. Thankfully many people are supporting measures to create cleaner, healthier, safer streets and increase green space in Islington.

This is an exciting time to be in Islington. A pivotal moment that our children will look back on with huge gratitude. The moment when all the adults who care for them pulled together to make small changes to protect the health of our future generations.

I am grateful for the people of Islington who are prepared to fight for the fundamental right to breath Clean Air. Thank you. Keep up the good work for a #lowtrafficislington!

Published in Islington Tribune on 2 July 2021