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Car fumes are damaging my children's lungs

Shazia is a Mum to 3 boys - and says air pollution is damaging their lungs.

About a year ago, my eldest son Zain developed a persistent cough. It occured in the evening and at night just before bedtime. He's an active and sporty 9 year old boy, and there were no other symptoms.

We took him to our GP because we suspected it might be asthma. We were right. And I think it was partly caused my traffic fumes.

Dangerously high pollution

After we moved home, my husband noticed that his own asthma was getting worse. The consultant told us we're living in one of the worst areas of the city for breathing problems. That made me connect our choice of home with our wellbeing.

I was pregnant at the time, so I started researching how air pollution affects babies and children. One report showed that children brought up with high exposure to diesel fumes developed smaller lungs.

When we walk to school, my children are breathing in dangerous levels of air pollution.

I spoke to other parents - and many others were concerned too. So we decided to test the air around the school area. I wanted to find out what the pollution levels were like where we live, learn and walk every day.

Every street with a continuous flow of traffic was above legal safe limits for a pollutant called nitrogen dioxide - which comes from diesel car fumes. Most areas were 25% of more over the limit - but the worst was 4 times higher!

We live a mile from Zain's school. When I drop the children at school we walk. And when my husband drops them at school the boys take their bikes. As they go to school, my children are breathing in dangerously dirty air all the time. The depressing reality is that when we walk along busy roads to school, my children are breathing in dangerous levels of air pollution.

Zain was disappointed to find out he had asthma. He didn't like the idea of taking inhalers every day. The thought that asthma was now part of his life oppressed him a bit.

It gets a lot worse when pollution is high. And my youngest son, Elias, is exposed to a higher level of fumes as his pushchair is at the same height as the car exhausts.

We've got to act now

If we do not act more swiftly a generation of children will grow up with irreversible health impacts caused by air pollution.

This is a public health crisis. And it affects every one of us.

The government's own forecasts show that air in my area won't be clean enough to breathe until 2025. My children will be 18, 16 and 12 by then - the damage will already be done.

Without air pollution, children can develop normally. And pollution is taking a huge toll on older people too. It's estimated that thousands of people in areas of high pollution are dying earlier then they otherwise would due to exposure to these pollutants.

This is a public health crisis. And it affects every one of us.

We can change this

Together, we can change this. I signed the British Lung Foundation's air pollution petition. We're telling the government to monitor pollution around schools like Zain's and reduce levels so that children like mine don't have to suffer.

Find out more about our clean air campaign and get involved.


It's a difficult one. Many years ago they encouraged a car share scheme, but then I heard the difficulty about if one of the passengers, needed to go home urgently and there was no other way of returning without the car, so passengers were being stranded in rural areas with not much public transport to rely on. I keep seeing the dangers of Petrol and Diesel fumes.......what about LPG, far far less problem. Pardon the unintended pun, but it seems a perfect mixture would be an LPG / Electric vehicle would be a much more healthier option. The irony is though, that we should get more people to walk those few hundreds of yards to school or the shops, but....unless we all do it at the same time, those few that do, are again opening themselves up to fume toxicity. Or is it more important for fuel companies to continue making a matter what.

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15 October 2016