Posted tagged ‘air pollution’

8 ways to deal with air pollution – Delhi dilemmas

January 26, 2017

Delhi is the world’s most polluted city. I think. London however has been shaping up nicely this January in its bid to reach toxic gold. Here’s my attempt to unpick the ridiculous suggestions mooted in a bid to help us all ‘beat London smog”. In case there is ANY doubt this is a parody. Words from Nicola Baird  (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs). 

These doors at Senate House are the very ones that inspired George Orwell's famous Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four. My room 101 doesn't have rats.

These doors at Senate House are the very ones that inspired George Orwell’s famous Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four. My room 101 doesn’t have rats.

1 READ THE EVENING STANDARD

Now lots of the ES is super sensible and covers the London Air Pollution saga well. It’s where I heard about London having breached its annual toxic limit by the fifth day of January 2017. But it also runs daft stories like A breath of fresh air: here’s 6 ways to clean up your act and beat London’s toxic air from two of its regular feature writers – Susannah Butter and Phoebe Luckhurst. This piece is shameful because it wasn’t tongue in cheek. The ladies suggest  “REN’s flash defence anti-pollution spray creates a viscous layer that noxious chemicals will struggle to penetrate. It smells great too.”

Why does the news so often seem like an April Food at the moment: shouldn’t Butter and Phoebe be warning us that buying this stuff would be £24 badly spent? I remember writing an exposé about the Solomon Islands trying to flog tropical rainforest oxygen back in the 1990s… Now I think the islanders had it right, Londoners are so daft they’d have sniffed up bottles of this and passed them round their Uber. PM10s are not going to be watered down by an imaginary body spray.

2 YOU NEED A FACEMASK & POLLUTION MONITORS

On the #airpollution stream on Insta there is plenty of smogporn (if that’s a thing yet), but also  brands who view air pollution as an opportunity– such as koolmask, hypeingham and metro-mask. There’s even a bedside alarm LaMetricTime which displays CO2 levels allowing you to watch the levels rising…

Got to admire capitalism because everything is an opportunity. Those masks aren’t going to help London tackle air pollution are they?

3 EAT WELL

Yup – eating avocado (vitamin D) and almonds (vitamin E) gives your body all the nutrients you need to fight toxic air pollution.  

I’ve read this. It must be right. It also gives zero thought whatsoever to how those pops of goodness arrived here (air freighted) or what damage avocado and super-thirsty almond plantations are doing where they are grown.

Written by me in 1998.

Written by me in 1998.

4 “GET IN THE CAR” & DRIVE TO SCHOOL

That was the advice from at least one school nurse to asthma sufferers. 

One of my daughters has had a tricky time with asthma and we’ve met a large number of asthma nurses. Some are great, but very few understood the big picture or factored in what it meant to be a child who likes to use their legs and eyes in the big outdoors…

It makes sense, because there are still a huge number of families who drive their kids to school, refusing to accept that their journey is not necessary. It’s still an aspirational desire to drive.

I’ve had a car in the past and of course it’ll be used it if it’s temptingly parked outside and you’re running late… but get rid of the car and you’ll always walk, or scooter, or bike to school which teaches your kids good habits (and burns off breakfast). If rates can justifably skyrocket (and i wish they wouldn’t if it kills independent stores) then so too can road taxes or the cost of the right to drive in a city in a diesel powered car. (I should add that I’m not that impressed by private petrol or electric vehicles either)

5 SAY NO TO LETTING THE KIDS PLAY OUTSIDE

When environmental health officials are tricked (surely?) into saying it’s dangerous for kids to use the school playground be wary of following their advice.

Already most kids stay indoors far too much despite the indoor air pollutants from cooking, furniture, sprays and cleaning products create a toxic soup. They can’t be independent from a young age because of the dangers from cars knocking them over (not stranger danger). City kids need to know as much as possible about nature even if it is just jumping the weeds in the pavement cracks, pulling at last year’s hollyhocks languishing in the tree pits or hearing the blackbird singing on that house’s old TV aerial. Having a glimpse of even this diminished nature is what may help the kids figure out that life outdoors ought to be one of opportunity, not threat.

Front garden - there's a bird in the apple tree.

Front garden – there’s a bird
in the apple tree.

6 DEALING WITH SUBSIDENCE

My poor Victorian home is subsiding. The only way insurers deal with this is waging war on anything green around the foundations, and so the buddleia and jasmine have to go.

It’s impossible for me to denude the bricks while my head is swirling with toxic London fog scenes and the sweet inner-city robin cheerily sings when it sees me heading towards its corner of the buddleia brandishing a bow saw.

7 SETTLE DOWN WITH NETFLIX

Watching The Crown on Netflix ought to cancel out visions of toxic smog… but no, in episode 4, in December 1952 there are a dreadful three days which flood hospitals and ultimately kill as many as 12,000 people during the Great Smog of London

Churchill is hopeless at coping with this, writing it off as British weather, an “act of God”. At least Sadiq Khan seems to be looking at our problem head on. Now he’s got to show the sort of leadership that no one has yet dared to do against the car lobby, and in particular diesel vehicles. Couldn’t we just do something radical like shake up the whole way Londoners move around for a trial phase and see if it made a difference?

8 SPOILING MY MARATHON TRAINING

Of course I’m not training to run the marathon, but I’ve heard the moans. Toxic air wrecks “Marathontraining plans” so the runners have to head to the indoor gym and cycle on stationary bikes and indoor running tracks, rather than plod pavements.

Wouldn’t it be great if the generation obsessed by bucket lists and meeting personal challenges could start working together to force politicians to make London’s air cleaner – and by default other cities cleaner as well? Because if they did within a year no one would ever have to cancel their training run.

THE END
So where does that get us? Nine ways to clean up your act, or nine opportunities to speak up?  The only good seems to be that at last air pollution in London – and the impact cars, traffic (and airports) have on it – is at last being talked about by everybody, even if the messages aren’t always clear. Next step is action. Please.

Can you give up your car when it rains?

April 25, 2012

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. Reasons to splash in those puddles and get singing in the rain rather than take the car which can, for some, cause sudden death.  For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here 

I’ve waited until a real rainy spell to write this. That’s because when it’s raining it is SO tempting to jump in the car – rather than kit yourself out in brolly, wellies and that unglam raincoat. Obviously this post is particulary geared towards those people who live in towns and cities (ie, most of us)

The reason I insist my children walk to school is all about pollution.

Turns out that UK transport emissions cause 7,500 early deaths each year, see research here. I am horrified by this, but then thought well there are 60 million of us, so what does this figure really mean? But this fabulous mortality diagram from the Guardian is sure to get you thinking, see here.

That figure of 7,500 early deaths is like everyone in a medium sized primary school (of 300 children) dying, plus all the students in another 24 schools.

At what point did the UK get so big and uncaring that deaths equivalent to 25 primary schools stopped being newsworthy?

The Asthma Society claims:

  • There were 1,131 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2009 (12 were children aged 14 years or under).
  • On average, 3 people per day die from asthma.

The UK mortality figures used by the Guardian in its diagram show that 7,500 is a huge figure. After all in one year:

  • Transport accidents claim 2,284
  • Drug use deaths totalled 1,340
  • Swine flu was 149

To help make comparisons you need to know (all figures approx) that every day 1,700 people die in the UK .  So each year that’s 643,000 deaths, making it easy to lose – or forget about – those 7,500 early deaths from air pollution. Is that why #doubledip and #recession are the words trending on twitter, not #airpollution or #airquality?

It seems that we can chatter with no problems about being unable to afford petrol, car repairs or a holiday that starts at the airport. But in so doing ignore taking action – or sounding off about – on an issue we all could do something about.

A week before Lola was born my book on cars The Estate We’re In: who’s driving car culture (Indigo) came out. I know you can’t criticise car drivers (I am one after all, and have even taught three or four people how to drive). But I wish you could get put on the naughty step for driving.

Over to you with a FREE gift
If you’d like a FREE book: Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island about travelling around the UK on public transport in the 1980s – a wittily written nostalgic journey which takes in bad food, timetables and clone towns by the very funny American then answer this question and send me your email. The book is provided FREE by the lovely folk from World Book Night.

Q: Do you worry about air pollution or not?

Why asthma makes me so angry

November 25, 2011

It's mum who wants to make a fuss about life not being fair for Nell,10.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is a rage against the machine, for anyone who knows someone with asthma – or someone who won’t drive their car a bit less. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of  (much calmer) ideas about parenting, click here

From the Islington Tribune (25 November 2011, actual story here)
On Monday, Islington’s Green ­Party will reveal the full results of a survey it carried out along the A101 – Blackstock Road, Highbury Road and Highbury Grove – which showed that everyday pollution levels are 25 per cent higher than the EU safe ­limit, and in hotspots such as around ­Highbury Barn they are 75 per cent higher.

Readings at child height – as reported in the Tribune two weeks ago – are even worse.

I’m raging against the machine today. I’ve been an environmental campaigner for years. I even spent a decade working with Friends of the Earth, where we were taught if campaigners wanted to make the world a better place, then you better never get angry. If you want to win hearts and minds, then you need to be calm. Look your enemy in the eye, and answer rationally. Listen, laugh if you need to. But don’t get cross. Sometimes I wished I could get cross.

Well, that’s all changed now.

I’m furious about the air quality outside my house. Every single road I use. Every road you and I use is the same. Do you realise that pollution levels are 25 per cent higher try than the EU safe level on Blackstock Road, Highbury Road and Highbury Grove? Have you understood that it’s75 per cent higher at Highbury Barn? What does this mean – that I’m exposing my asthmatic 10 year old to the equivalent of smoking a packet of fags a day? Or is it worse than that?

That’s the same child that I worry about eating five veg a day, getting enough sleep at night, avoiding too much TV or sweets, or getting into the right school.

Asthma triggers are all sorts – perfume, cats, cold weather.  You can kind of avoid those.

I know carpets are a problem, the build up of chemicals indoors. So I’ve got smooth floors and windows that open.

But what if the asthma trigger is the actual air you breathe? What the heck can you do then? Does my child need a bubble helmet and a particle shield to be able to safely breathe?

Do you know how many people have asthma in London? Or Islington? Or your street?

I bet everyone knows a family who has been plagued by asthma. The stats say one in five children carry an asthma inhaler.

  • My daughter Nell needs a steroid dose to help her breathe – to stop her airways constricting and killing her. She needs it when she wakes up and when she goes to bed.
  • She’s probably going to be shorter.
  • She’s not going to be in the school sports teams.
  • Sometimes her asthma is so difficult to control she can’t actually talk very well. Silence = an asthma attack.
  • She was born in Islington.
  • She isn’t going to grow out of this.

Nell’s unlucky. But she’s not unique: 5.4million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma. That’s a big number. Only about 200,000 of us live in Islington – so that’s 27 Islingtons of people who can’t breathe too well.

Doctors don’t really know why asthma levels have exploded – but that’s because doctors will do anything not to blame something. Why is it that when you go into hospital with a dodgy heart and you die an autopsy goes ahead? Wasn’t the death kind of obvious?

Half of London’s pollution comes from transport. Doesn’t that say something screamingly obvious? If doctors just spelt out the obvious – and said look this level of air pollutants is crazy.  Imagine the doctors saying: “We are killing our youngest, most vulnerable people just because someone like their mum wants to drive to school or the shops.” Wouldn’t it help us all rethink how we get around Islington?

I don’t smoke because it’s expensive. And because I believe the doctors when they say it gives you cancer and heart and lung disease. Why can’t doctors be a bit braver and go on record. Why can’t they say to drivers that driving is cutting this child Nell’s life short just because someone wants to save a bit of time today, or hang outside the school gates with their engine running?

Why are we all being so well-behaved? We’re murdering our neighbours’ children, and our own children just because we will not get out of our cars, and Christmas is coming, so it’s all a bit difficult…

Every time you drive it’s making my child’s lung capacity – and her friends – another notch worse.

Now if I wasn’t being angry I’d say put your heavy goods into a bike basket, or a pannier or get a push along trolley. My family now has two trolleys we find it so useful. Use a buggy if you must. Or a wheelbarrow.

Instead I’m going to add a few particulates to the mix. If I ever see anyone sitting in a car with the engine running I’m going to wolf howl with despair. How can we do this to other people, let alone to our own families?

This study by Islington’s Green party has given us the figures everyone else wanted to hide. A bunch of mums and dads went out with a wet wipe and a few particulate readers. A few weeks later they came back with a shocking story. The soupy air quality on the roads we all use is likely to cut our life – my life – short by 11 years. Nell hasn’t even lived that long yet.

No wonder I’m angry. As they say in that famous Chinese proverb – be careful what you wish for.

Thank you to Islington’s Green party. For more details about the survey see at http://highburyonfoot.blogspot.com/


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