On the 25th November ICAP held a meeting at Islington Hall on air pollution. We organised the event for a number of reasons. We wanted to use the event to educate Islington residents about the effects of air pollution on their health, to grow our membership and to demonstrate to councillors and those in power, how important air quality is, and how much the people of Islington care about it. Over 80 people attended the evening which consisted of a panel of speakers, including experts and campaigners, followed by a hustings.
During the hustings Richard Watts, who stood in for Jeremy Corbyn, made some exciting promises and statements, including informing us that he wants Low Traffic Neighborhoods in Islington and stating that parking in Islington needs to go down.
On our panel we had Ian Mudway from KCL, who has conducted some of the most important studies on air pollution. He talked about how we imagine air to be infinite and that we think that what we put into the air disappears, but this is not the case. In fact air is finite, pollution stays in the atmosphere and does not simply disappear. He compared air to water, we wouldn’t drink dirty water, so why do we accept dirty air?
We had Aarash Saleh, a respiratory doctor who told us that he sees an increase in admissions on days when air pollution is high, and that he cannot always prescribe patients the fresh air and exercise they need, as the air they live with is not safe to breathe.
We heard from Claire McDonald from Mums for Lungs who spoke about school streets and how to close the streets around your child’s school in order to improve air quality on the school run.
David Smith of Little Ninja, told us about his anti-idling campaign. His petition calls for a change in the law so that all vehicle owners are given information about the impact of idling on health, air pollution, climate change and a clear warning that if their vehicle is caught idling when parked they will receive an instant fine. He regularly speaks to children as well as adults. Children, he said, instantly understand his campaign as, being much closer to the level of the exhaust pipe, they deal with the problem on a daily basis.
Our most moving speaker of the evening was Rosamund Adoo Kissi Deborah who lost her daughter, Ella, to a fatal asthma attack. She has been told her daughter would still be alive today if it were not for air pollution. She is now campaigning to get air pollution registered as the cause of her daughter’s death. If she is successful, the new ruling will be a game-changer: levels of nitrogen dioxide have been illegally high since 2010 in the vast majority of UK urban areas. The state will have to take responsibility for its failure to comply with its duties under article two of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.