Where are these 1.6 million children? In East Beijing which has been in the news this week for air pollution levels soaring to 40 times what the World Health Organisation considers safe? Children there undoubtably need a breath of fresh air. But I'm actually writing about the 1.6 million children who live in London. London is not Beijing but the air here is definitely nothing to be proud of, in fact some types of pollution are similar here to Beijing! And it is affecting the health of the children who live here.
I love London and in many ways it's a great place to bring up children. Plenty of facilities and interesting things to do on the doorstep, brilliant parks everywhere you turn, and a cultural melting pot that must surely help prepare kids for a world that's getting 'smaller' by the day. But the air quality stinks.
When I wrote before about London's stinky air I felt pretty angry and powerless. I'm no less angry now. Comments by the Clean Air in London campaign like "The Government is misleading the public, cheating on legal standards and covering-up the biggest public health risk after smoking and perhaps chronic dietary problems.” make sure of that! I've been reminded that diesel fumes cause cancer, and alerted to the fact that in at least one part of London, just three days into 2013, there have been more serious air pollution incidents than they should have in a whole year. That's pretty embarrassing.
On the up side we haven't ended up in A&E with a wheezy little M in the last few months, keeping my fingers crossed that she doesn't have asthma as we've feared. I'm discovering some lovely new, fume free walking routes and hoping to hear little L's first words anytime now without them being drowned out by roaring traffic. And I'm looking forward to taking her on her first bike ride...and figuring out the best way to commute by bike with two children. A bit more space for bikes and child-carrying kit would make it a lot easier! And Londoners are apparently driving less and so helping to clean up the air. Perhaps the fossil fuel juggernaut is slowly turning! Hey Boris! Fancy grabbing the wheel to make it turn a bit faster? I'm pretty sure that's in your job decsription.
I do still fret about little M's health and find it hard to shake the nagging feeling that London's air isn't going to do her any good as she grows up. I don't particularly want to escape to the country. But I sometimes feel perhaps I should, for her sake. What about the other 1.6 million children?
So for my children, and all the others in London, I've decided to channel some of my anger into action recently. Last week I went out filming with Healthy Air UK - great organisation campaigning in London, and elsewhere, to clean up our air and help families find ways to protect their health from crappy air quality. I'm looking forward to doing a local pollution monitoring workshop with them and some other local parents next month. I could do more. I've just been looking at the 10 steps for Clean Air in London...plenty more I can do! How about you?
Across the world, more and more people are living in cities. City living needs to work for families. Clean air to breath would be a good start!