Air pollution is big news.
Recent research shows that tens of thousands of school children in London are exposed to illegal levels of pollution every day.
Our air has nitrogen dioxide levels way above agreed EU levels. The UK government now accepts that levels are a serious health risk. Most of the problem is traffic related.
The World Health Organisation says air pollution around the world is rising at an alarming rate.
Nearly all cities in poorer nations have terrible pollution, and more than half of cities richer countries are as bad.
Bad air quality is linked to lung and heart disease and strokes, but scientists are now linking it to brain problems like dementia as well as kidney disease, diabetes and even premature birth.
The concern is that respiratory problems in children from pollution can damage the lungs meaning a high potential for repeated infection, and effects lasting into adulthood.
Potentially a life time problem for children in high level areas, and the future health system.
Cities and governments are trying to reduce the pollution. There may be some painful changes and charges sooner than we think. Our habits and the convenience we expect as drivers and road users and city dwellers need to change too.
Air pollution may reduce over time, but in the short term, we need to think about what we can do.
It’s relatively cheap and you don’t have the stress of driving and finding or paying for parking.
The more people start to use public transport the quicker it improves. Amsterdam is a great city to look to. Its bus and tram services are cheap, clean, efficient, and serve the geography of the city brilliantly. We need to make the bus ‘cool’.
Talking of Amsterdam – does a better cycle-friendly city exist? The health benefits in terms of exercise are obvious. The reduced number of cars has a huge impact on air quality. Britain, it must be said, is not as ‘bike friendly’ and its roads do need improvement to make cycling safe.
By supporting the creation of bike lanes, we can develop a better outlook and culture for cyclists. Along with the use of public transport, more people cycling than driving would vastly reduce air pollution.
Air pollution is a relatively invisible enemy. Knowing and understanding the health dangers, especially for children, is key to changing our behaviours.
We are very attached to our cars and our conveniences, but if we’re breathing poison every day then we need to take every opportunity to shout about it.
Over the course of a year, a tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Well planned urban trees and foliage clean up the air better than any man-made invention. No surprise at Mother Nature’s genius.
No-one wants to hear their car tax has gone up, or the government is scrapping your old diesel car. Charge zones are unpopular. But without a serious levy on the cause of the problem however, nothing changes. With 800 schools in London alone exposed to dangerous levels of pollutants, we need to change our way of thinking, and fast.
Nottingham City Council was the first city to implement a ‘Workplace Parking levy’ in 2011. The charge scheme raised £35.3m to help extend the city’s tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.
The recent news about the state of our air isn’t good news. Good news is, it can be reversed. Things need to be done at a government level, but for sure, we can make small changes to our habits and thinking that will help the problem.