Asthma is a lung disease where the airways of the lungs are swollen and inflamed, making it harder to breathe. When Stockholm introduced its congestion tax to discourage driving in the downtown, pollution levels dropped by 5 to 10 percent and asthma attacks experienced by local children decreased by nearly 50 percent.
The new emission zone in London limits air pollution in the central city by 50 percent. Introduced in April 2019, ULEZ (which stands for Ultra-Low Emission Zone ) plans to “reduce the 36,000 deaths caused in the UK every year by outdoor pollution.”
London hopes its example will be followed by other cities in the United Kingdom. London’s emissions zones work provide a road map as road pricing is being discussed for potential implementation in Metro Vancouver. Given the constraints of the region because of water, mountains and location it makes sense to look at any congestion pricing at a regional level, especially when pollutant impacts go to other communities with prevailing winds.
The World Health Organization has identified outdoor air pollution as causing over 4.2 million premature deaths in low, middle and high income countries around the world. A recent Lancet reported study found that London’s low emission zone adopted in 2008 had improved air quality with lowering NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) levels, but that children were still exposed to particulates.
For the first time one of the victims of air pollution in Britain has been named. As Elian Peltier writes in the New York Times, nine year old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, lived near the major South Circular Road in southeast London.She died in 2013 after many asthma attacks and seizures requiring hospitalization. Law and environmental experts linked her death in a coroner’s report to air pollution, setting a precedent. The levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that Ella was exposed to were beyond the World Health Organization guidelines.
Sadly her mother said that had she known about the deleterious impact of pollution on her daughter’s health she would have moved. Children who are growing are particularly susceptible to “disease or dysfunctional growth”.
Here is the paradox~”pollution disproportionately affects minorities and deprived families”
Those are the people living in mid and high rise buildings along major arteries. We planned neighbourhoods that way, not allowing mid rise buildings with families to be embedded IN neighbourhoods, by parks, community centres and schools, but locating them along the arterials.
It is clear that “air pollution is driving health inequalities” and that also should be informing us to pollute less, and site higher density buildings with families and children away from major streets, fronting recreation areas, parks and schools.
I have written about nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter and how toxic this is to children.
There is some good news~ Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office “stated that the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide had fallen from over two million in 2016 to 119,000 in 2019.”
This very sad legal precedent in this girl’s death opens up the demand for complying with pollution reduction and ensuring the safety of children in cities and areas close to pollution sources~traffic and industry.
Rose Grogan an environmental lawyer stated “Today’s ruling comes in the long running context of Britain being in breach of European directives on air pollution. The findings per se aren’t legally binding, yet that conclusion could likely pave the way for claims to be brought against the government in civil jurisdictions.”
You can find out more about this case and see video footage of London’s Circular Road in the CBC YouTube video below.