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I have a lung condition and I want the next government to do more to tackle dirty air

Catherine is living with a lung condition. Air pollution affects her life. She wants the next government to take more action.

Catherine standing inside

I was diagnosed with asthma before I was 5. I was always ill with colds. We lived with my parents’ families in the first few years of my life, and I thought the coughs and colds might have had something to do with their smoking.

But we moved to our own house and even then my coughs and colds continued.

Coughs put me out of action

I was in hospital 2 times by the time I was 5. I had lots of physio to try to help my breathing. I was often off school in the winter months with a bad cough and cold.

Even back then, there might have been a link to air pollution. Smog was so common in those days as it was before the Clean Air Act had been passed.

I had always wondered why a cough could put me out of action for a week or more, when other people could just carry on. It was only when I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis that I realised why. Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition that affects the airways in your lungs. I’d had a mini-stroke that I felt no effects from, which led to the discovery of bronchiectasis and small scars, probably from contact with tuberculosis.

Air pollution impacts my life

Now, air pollution has an effect on my life. It makes my condition so much worse. I notice far more coughing when I’ve been travelling in parts of London. Traffic flows through my local shopping centre and causes me issues. Central London is even worse.

As a pedestrian, walking on main roads has become increasingly unpleasant because of traffic fumes. I only go into central London by public transport. But when I need to drive longer distances, I drive. Either way, I’m often left coughing the next day.

We can smell the pollution blowing towards us

But air pollution isn't just about coughing - it increases your risk of lung cancer and can stunt children's lung growth.

I live on a high hill overlooking central London from east to west. Over the last 10 years, I have noticed a heavy haze hanging over the city almost daily now. When I first moved here in 1973, the view was much clearer and I could see miles to the hills in the south east.

We can smell the pollution blowing towards us if the wind is in the right direction and then need to keep our windows closed.

More can be done

It’s good to see that the clean air plans have been released and there are plans to consider a scrappage scheme for diesel cars. 

We should be encouraging people to switch their old diesel vehicles to hybrids or electric. Many people bought these cars thinking they were cleaner but now they could face charges - it’s only fair that these people get help to make the change. 

But much more could be done. I hope the next government will build on these plans and go much further to protect our health.

We need to get the most polluting, older vehicles off our roads. Otherwise, all our health will continue to be at risk.

While people with lung conditions are forced to stay indoors, traffic that causes the problem can continue as usual. That's not good enough.

I love to get out and about. But I’d love to be able to spend more time walking around London and explore the areas I want to know better, as I have my whole life. Cleaner air would open so many doors for me. I hope our next government will take action. 

Find out more about the campaign for cleaner air. If you're affected by air pollution, read our health information about how you can protect yourself. You can also read our response to the government's air quality plans.


I am a chronic COPD sufferer on constant oxygen.  That doesnt stop me going out and enjoying  life  but Pollution does......Not only from Traffic and central heating boiler  balanced flues at face height but all the automated chemical sprays they insist on installing in public lavatories.   It causes my oxygen levels to drop dramatically to near organ failure level.   Please can somebody stop this happening?  Two eminent Respiratory Proffessors have spoken of these chemicals  being the cause of the next generations medical nightmare but Nothing is being done.   I will be housebound soon because of them, not my condition!    I
Hi! I was born with COPD (Chronic Obstructed Pulmonary Disease). I have never smoked! I get very breathless especially in cities & I getting up hills & stairs is a bit of a struggles - I sometimes take the lift. Now I have been diagnosed with borderline diabetes & have been told to exercise! I just do the best that I can. I will be hassling my MP & local Mayor to get something done about dirty air. I can really empathise with all people struggling with breathlessness & lung diseases.

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5 May 2017