Taking action for our children

As parents, there are few things that are more motivating than the well being and health of our children. It is partly the inspiration why we work at EMSOL. Air pollution is a major risk to the health of all children who live in cities across the world. It has been linked with all sorts of child illnesses that none of us would wish to put our children through, such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough.

So reading the news that children in prams are more likely to suffer from the effects of air pollution than the parents who are pushing them is maddening. The study states that this is largely due to the height at which the prams are at (between 55cm and 80cm above the ground), being a level that breathes in more polluted air. In effect, vehicles produce pollution in a way that affects the most vulnerable of people – babies – at a crucial developmental stage of their life.

This is something that is simply unacceptable. And to parents, the inevitable questions arise: “what is the risk to my child?” “What can I do to take action?”. If you already take action and show your children the right thing to do, such as walking them to school, this is incredibly frustrating.

It is easy to think about what other routes you could take, as we mentioned in our post last week. Which may be useful if you have the choice. But if your child’s school is on a busy road, that is not an easy choice.

There are other initiatives, like banning cars outside of the school gates during the school run, or even closing your street after school so children can play on it. These may have some merit to them. But regardless of what is done, data needs to be at the forefront of the solution.

The data on the impacts is undeniable. The World Health Organization has done this analysis, and globally the figures are astounding. Globally, it is estimated that poor air quality is responsible for:

  • 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution;
  • 25% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer;
  • 17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection;
  • 16% of all deaths from stroke;
  • 15% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease;
  • 8% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

But a more comprehensive dataset on the effectiveness of a wider variety of initiatives on air quality overall within the city is needed. For many initiatives, the data is undeniable, particularly at a street level where action has been taken at source – such as road closures. However, if only taken in isolation without more comprehensive action or understanding its impact across the city, it is just winning one small battle in a wider war.

After all, if closing a road outside one school results in more congestion outside another, is that a good scheme?

Fortunately, we live in a time where air quality data is almost ubiquitous. Naturally, EMSOL provide a comprehensive data-driven solution to those who wish to reduce the impact of their activities, and for local authorities who wish to understand at a granular level the impact of transport operations in their area. There is also a variety of air quality data that is open, such as the London Air Quality Network and UK Air. We have an excellent basis on which to build data-driven air quality strategies.

The time for warm words and strategies has long since passed. It is time for meaningful action, otherwise our children will continue to suffer from our lack of it. We do not want them to grow up cities where air pollution continues to be the same problem that we are dealing with now. EMSOL is doing its part, and helping its clients to do theirs. But we all need to do our part, lest our children suffer because we do not.