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Choose Walking or Cycling on Clean Air Day

Categories: East Sheen,Environment

This Thursday June 20th is National Clean Air Day! As we know, air pollution is real and harmful to the health of millions; luckily, there are many things we can do to reduce our pollutive footprint. Clean Air Day is a chance to learn more about ways we can make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone, and to make a difference.

Air pollution is in the air that breathe in. The particles and chemicals enter our bodies and can damage our cells in different ways. Any amount of pollution can be damaging to our health, but the more that you are exposed to, the bigger the risk and the larger the impact it can have on you and your family.

Exposure to air pollution can increase cough and phlegm symptoms for adults and it can increase the risk of getting bacterial pneumonia. Over the longer term, your exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer. It has also been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessels), including furring of the arteries. Air pollution, unfortunately, particularly affects children, whose organs and immune systems are still developing, as well as the elderly and pregnant women.

Luckily, there are many things we can do to help reduce air pollution:

  • Use people power
    • Walk, cycle or scoot whenever you can, rather than driving. Being stuck in traffic can expose you to lots of pollution. Polluted air from the exhaust of the vehicles in front can get sucked into your car, and often stays trapped there, meaning you breathe in lots of the pollution. An experiment found that a car driver was exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and nine times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day.  
  • Take quieter routes
    • When you can, avoid walking along the busiest roads. Choose ways to get to your destination that use quieter streets, trips through parks and other green spaces or pedestrianised areas. Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads, and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%. You can also think about when you travel. If it is possible, avoid travelling at rush hour when the pollution levels are often much higher.  
  • Work from home
    • If your work allows it can be good to work from home occasionally, so that you avoid the commute altogether. This can be especially helpful on high air pollution days.
  • Regularly service your boilers
    • Make sure your boiler is serviced each year to help keep it burning fuel cleanly. This will reduce pollution and prevent Carbon Monoxide from being created.
  • Be careful what you burn at home
    • If you have a wood burning stove, make sure to always use well-seasoned wood. That is wood that has had a chance to dry out properly, so it burns efficiently and with less pollution.
  • Choose low-chemical cleaners, DIY Products and personal care products
    • Instead of using aerosols, look for other options: use a roll-on deodorant rather than a spray or open the window for fresh air rather than using an air freshener.
  • Try to keep your kitchen smoke-free
    • When you are cooking, try to keep lids on pots whenever you can. This will reduce the amount of energy needed to cook and reduce the amount of pollution from your gas hob.

To find out how air pollution is affecting our schools and what you can do, watch the latest episode of the Channel4 program ‘Dispatches’: Britain’s Toxic Air Scandal. The creatos ran a world-first experiment to reduce hundreds of primary school children’s exposure to toxic air, and discovers that unidentified toxins are coming off every vehicle, even electric ones.

One of the ways of drastically improving air quality around schools is walking to school instead of driving. A generation ago, 70% of us walked to school; now, less than half of us do. Walking to school can also help improve your child’s happiness and fitness and reduce congestion around schools.

Clean Air Day is a great initiative, and is supported by our local group Mums For Lungs, who are campaigners aiming to tackle the air pollution crisis themselves. They are campaigning for clean air for everyone, particularly children and babies.

We hope you have a fabulous Clean Air Day and do whatever you can to help the cause! Remember though, you can aim to reduce your carbon footprint and air pollution year round!

Author: Charlie Duncan

Charlie is currently studying English and Drama at the University of Exeter, and was raised in East Sheen and loves to contribute to the website and community when he can.