Posted tagged ‘air quality’

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 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.


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.


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?


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.


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)


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.


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.


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?


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.

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.

Quiz on mums, sport and air pollution

March 21, 2012

One out of 11 children have asthma. Here are two.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. One out of 11 UK children have asthma. So what can a mum do to tackle air pollution indoors and out? Try this QUIZ and see how you do. For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here 

If you need a reminder of what asthma does to kids, and how air quality effects children’s health see this older blog post and 10-year-old Nell’s video here.

Try this QUIZ – only 13 questions…
1 Indoor air pollution is increased by chemical fumes released from carpets, wallpaper, paint, fire-resistant materials and gas cookers. All build up in a well-insulated house. TIP: When you redecorate choose VOC-free (or low VOC) paints and glues which are easy to find in DIY stores (just look on the tin’s label).

[ ] a My house is drafty so I guess the pollution can drift off outside

[ ] b I rent and can’t redecorate – not my problem

[ ] c You mean volatile organic compounds? They’re on the naughty step.

2 Avoid anything made from MDF. TIP: Don’t put MDF shelves (or any glue mix material including plywood) above a radiator.

[ ] a Easier said than done. The kitchen’s MDF duh.

[ ] b Didn’t I tell you that I rent and can’t organise a kitchen refit?

[ ] c Does it tell me this at Ikea?

3 If you live and drive in a town or city use a petrol-fuelled car (or car club vehicle). TIP: Diesel isn’t as clean a fuel choice because the particulates released as you drive can trigger asthma attacks.

[ ] a Look I’ve got a diesel car and I’m not changing it. For anyone.

[ ] b I don’t remember this conversation at Car Supermarket.

[ ] c OMG what do paticulates do?

4 Obviously don’t drive as much – because all traffic pollutes. TIP: Aim to walk your children to school as many days as you can.

[ ] a You are one crazy lady. The roads aren’t safe enough for me to let my kids walk or cycle to school.

[ ] b Not got the time, sorry.

[ ] c Oh no, not blaming the school run again?

5 Teach your children road safety and look out for cycle training courses run for children, see

[ ] a You really are one crazy lady. See above.

[ ] b Don’t they teach this stuff at school?

[ ] c Not a bad plan.

6 Have a boy. TIP: Girls are more likely than boys to develop asthma by the time they are 18.

[ ] a Do you know how much IVF costs?

[ ] b What would Caitlin Moran say if I told her this?

[ ] c I’ve got daughters already, thank you very much.

7 Don’t live in the UK. Out of 56 countries the UK has more 13-14 year olds with asthma. TIP: You can get help from your GP and at

[ ] a How I long for the old days when mums just worried about OFSTED and SATs.

 [ ] b Great, just the excuse I need to move again.

[ ] c How will I cope with a mardy teen miserable about getting asthma?

8 Everyone with asthma is at risk of a wheeze attack when there is a spike in air quality. TIP: This isn’t just a western world problem – New Delhi is notoriously polluted and 16 out of 20 of the world’s worst polluted cities are said to be in China.

[ ] a This is just another reason to hate fog.

[ ] b Get it. Will cancel the trip to the Great Wall of China.

[ ] c I’m going to bookmark an air pollution app. Is there such a thing?

9 Get to know when air pollution is bad. Get 24-hour warning of pollution alerts at or if you live in London try

[ ] a Why is purple the danger sign? Shouldn’t it be red?

[ ] b At last I can use my screen grab to good purpose

[ ] c I’ve looked at the map, and it’s pretty bad everywhere.

10 Playing sport in the afternoon isn’t always wise – it can be a wheezy time if there’s high air pollution. It’s also the time when ozone levels are highest (which reduce lung function). Add to that pollen and it’s a recipe for those with dodgy chests (eg, asthma sufferers) to start wheezing. TIP: Avoid strenuous activity then, and learn to keep your medication close.

[ ] a Isn’t the Olympics held in the afternoon?

[ ] b Just the excuse I needed to avoid it, thank you.

[ ] c Is that why I keep hearing about sports people collapsing?

11 Good air quality is a right. Children competing in areas with poor air quality are much more likely to develop asthma than non-athletic children.

[ ] a What a load of lefty bananas.

[ ] b So tell me, are the London Youth Games at Crystal Palace in an area with poor air quality or good air quality?

[ ] c I’m starting to feel extremely worried.

12. When you’re not in a car use quieter, less congested roads and paths – even if it means a bit of a detour.

[ ] a Haha.

[ ] b Great excuse to wear my new blue suede trainers

[ ] c Do it already. Yes!

13 Don’t do what London Mayor Boris Johnson has done on super-polluted Marylebone Road and spray glue around in the hope that air pollution will be stuck together then disappear. It doesn’t work.

[ ] a Actually Spandex pants aren’t that great either.

[ ] b That’s a joke isn’t it?

[ ] c That’s it, I’m telling my councillors to do something in my local area.

Over to you – add what you got to the comment box. And thanks for joining in. Lots more info at

Mostly As
– I know what I’m getting you for your birthday, personalised number plates

Mostly Bs –  Perhaps you’ve got your head a little bit in the inhaler? Works better than sand though.

Mostly Cs – well done, you could help tackle this.

Get Fit With Azmain

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