Clean our airOne mum reveals her campaign to reduce pollution in Barnet
My four-year-old often complains about the stink on the North End Road on the way to school. She and her siblings are faced with exhaust fumes from cars, buses and large vehicles on a daily basis.
I’m a mum of three young children and a member of Barnet volunteer groups (Mothers’ CAN, which stands for Climate Action Network, as well as Friends of the Earth) and with the question of air pollution and its impact weighing on my mind, I quickly found other members were wondering the same thing. Upon further digging, I found that the Trust for London was funding testing through Barnet Alliance for Clean Air Day and we applied to receive 10 diffusion tubes. These would test the amount of Nitrogen Dioxide (often referred to as NO2, this is a gas produced as a result of road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes) in a given space over a two-week period. We placed them on lampposts across Barnet, at sites we knew were well-trodden by all members of society.
The results of two sites, one outside the Hippodrome parents and one outside St Anthony’s School and Nursery (also opposite King Alfred School and Clowns Nursery) were above what the World Health Organization says is a safe level of NO2, with the former coming in with a reading of 56.79 micrograms in each cubic metre of air (μg m-3) and the latter at 44.42. Recently, the WHO limit of 40 μg m-3 has been revised down to just 10μg m-3.
The British Medical Journal stated in September of this year: “During the covid pandemic, poor air quality increased the likelihood of infection from the coronavirus and of deaths.”
Why then, I wonder, did the council vote against Barnet joining the Mayor of London’s anti-engine-idling action project? Engine idling creates unnecessary fumes and is a good way to prevent pollution.
Still, we can make a difference in our everyday actions. Not everyone can avoid travelling by car, and some jobs require the use of a vehicle. But we can choose to walk or cycle short journeys instead of taking the car. We can also use public transport for longer journeys and use electric vehicles rather than diesel and petrol vehicles where this is a viable choice.
Until they’re a bit older, I know my kids will continue to ask me some big questions on the walk to school, and I will always do my best to answer them. I just hope, with action from all of us, their questions won’t be prompted by air pollution.