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 three 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.
We are advised to take routes away from busy roads but millions of children live on or near busy roads, attend schools near busy roads, their journeys are unavoidably along busy roads. Babies in buggies and young children are closest to the vehicles exhausts and exposed to higher concentrations of toxic gases and particulates.
Children in “clean air zones”, areas where the air quality problem is most serious, have a 10% reduced lung capacity and have 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 decided to measure local hourly pollution levels for ourselves.
We loaned an AQMesh air monitor and measured nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels on West Hill in Wandsworth for two weeks. We then collocated the AQMesh monitor with the reference station on Putney High Street for a further two weeks to ensure the most accurate data.
We recorded hourly NO2 levels as high as 170 micrograms per cubic metre (ugm3) on West Hill and 193ugm3 on Putney High Street. At 200ugm3 NO2 is a toxic gas.
The law requires that hourly measurements of NO2 must not exceed 200ugm3 more than 18 times in a year. Putney High Street breached legal NO2 hourly limits by March 2018.
West Hill likely breaches legal NO2 hourly limits but no one is measuring, so there is no evidence of any exceedances and no action to reduce local levels of pollution.
Standing at a kerbside bus shelters on West Hill during peak times means breathing unhealthily high concentrations of vehicle exhaust. A simple way to reduce public exposure is to no longer permit vehicles to stop, idle and accelerate directly in front of the bus shelters.
Please sign our petition for keep clear road markings in front of kerbside bus shelters.
We’re fundraising to buy an AQMesh monitor to continuously measure hourly NO2 levels on West Hill. If you can help towards the cost of the monitor, please kindly donate.
We hope to one day make it back to Stockwell Skatepark, he was doing pretty well for a 2 year old