Did you know that over 300 people die prematurely in Wandsworth each year because of illegal levels of air pollution, with many others left struggling to breathe? Four out of ten of London’s worst air pollution areas are in Wandsworth. Visit https://addresspollution.org to check the air quality where you live.
New research shows that air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil was responsible for 8.7 million deaths globally in 2018, a staggering one in five of all people who died that year. In the UK, it is estimated that air pollution is responsible for around 36,000 premature deaths annually, with up to 9,400 in London according to a recent report by London Councils. Dirty air has been linked to many different health problems in children, including reduced lung capacity and increased asthma. On 16 December 2020 a south London coroner made history by ruling that air pollution was a contributory cause of the death of 9-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. And people who live in deprived areas are often exposed to higher levels of air pollution, so poor air quality is a social justice issue.
But what about Wandsworth Council?
The Council declared a climate emergency in 2019; their job is to ensure the wellbeing of local residents. You might therefore assume that they are taking urgent measures to address the climate emergency and protect us from the dangers of air pollution. You would be wrong. The Council has failed to act. In fact they are making things worse by cutting down large numbers of mature trees, as has happened recently in York Gardens. The recently published Wandsworth Air Quality Action Plan lacks all sense of urgency and offers no radical solutions.
So, what have we done about it?
On the 24th July, rebels from XR Wandsworth marched from Balham to Tooting Broadway today to protest against Wandsworth Council’s dismal failure to address the problem of air pollution. Drummers, a coffin, banners and a tree of life were all involved – a lively party but a very sombre message. At the end of the March there were inspiring speeches from passionate local campaigners and experts. You can watch the livestream of the whole action here:
Find out more
One of the speakers on Saturday was Pete Knapp, air quality researcher at Imperial College London. You can read a longer piece from Pete on air pollution here if you would like to find out more.