Icon Heading

I'm David and this is my story

When our son was two and a half years old, I broke his heart. I took away the thing that gave him the most joy – riding his little bike around Stockwell Skatepark. I did it for the right reasons, but it still hurts to this day.

To get from our home in Wandsworth to Stockwell Skatepark by 10am (an hour before the bigger kids get there), we’d travel down West Hill, wait for the 37 bus to Lambeth Town Hall, then walk along the Brixton Road. Throughout this journey we were either walking alongside, standing next to or riding in lanes of slow moving or idling traffic.

Diesel exhaust and outdoor air pollution are carcinogenic. Studies across the world (including in a London school) consistently find that regular exposure to traffic pollution effects the growth and function of children’s lungs.

The UK has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world with an estimated 1.1 million children diagnosed as suffering from asthma. A study in Bradford suggests that one in four cases of childhood asthma is caused by air pollution.

Our son is now almost five years old and like millions of children across the UK he unknowingly breathes harmful levels of pollution travelling to nursery/school whilst morning traffic pollution is at its highest.

Millions of children live on or near busy roads, attend schools near busy roads and travel along busy roads. Children and babies in buggies are closest to the vehicles exhausts and exposed to higher concentrations of toxic gases and particulates. Infants also breathe three times as much air as adults relative to their body weight.

Children living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution have 5-10% reduced lung capacity and more respiratory problems, together with effects on their nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. This leads to physical and mental health problems in later life.

We tried to find out how high the pollution levels are during the hours our children travel to nursery and school and discovered that hourly pollution levels are not measured locally.

We contacted air pollution experts at London’s Universities and they confirmed that the AQMesh air monitor was the most mature on the market. The cost? £6,250.00. We began fundraising to buy the monitor but soon realised it might take years to raise the funds required so we took a leap of faith and we purchased the monitor ourselves.

We co-located our AQMesh monitor with the official reference station on Putney High Street to ensure it was calibrated and then mounted it outside our home, outside the local nursery and school and at our local bus stop.

The annual legal limit for NO2 is 40ugm3. Research shows that for children living in areas with average NO2 at above 40.7ugm3 is equivalent to a reduction in lung volume of approximately 5%. Average NO2 levels at our local bus stop is 71ugm3.

How high was air pollution levels at the time my son was waiting at the bus stop and when children travel to nursery/school? We recorded hourly NO2 levels as high as 266ugm3! When NO2 is above 200ugm3 it is a toxic gas (measured over one hour).

The air pollution reports we rely on in the UK are from monitors mounted at a 2-4 metre but our children and babies are breathing at less than 1 metre height. The truth is that our children are slowly being poisoned.

An idling vehicle produces twice the emissions as a moving vehicle due to incomplete combustion. Whether standing at a kerbside bus shelters, at the school gates or scooting along a main road, we must demand more is done to increase the distance between a child’s face and idling vehicle exhaust pipes.