What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the release of particles and noxious gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have an impact on human health. The two pollutants of most concern are Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM2.5 or PM10). Nitrogen Dioxide is linked with diesel cars and Particulate Matter is small particles which can come from engine and tyre wear and wood burning, as well as dust from construction sites.

How can I help Mums for Lungs?

Any help is really useful to us, no matter how little time you have. Our meetings take place in Brixton/Herne Hill and East Sheen and we’d love to see you there. Or meet Aimee in E17. Let us know by email if there’s anything in particular you’d like to talk about or help with - for example handing out flyers, contacting schools, speaking to your local school, writing a press release, doing some admin or designing a spreadsheet for us, updating our website, raising funds or whatever you’re good at!

How can I encourage my school to trial a School Streets scheme?

You can help to raise awareness of School Streets by chatting to other parents and discussing the issue at Parent Teacher Association meetings. If you think there is support for the idea, why not contact your headteacher and suggest they ask the local council to trial it? Just a note of caution, School Streets is not suitable for every school – for example those on busy main roads.

My child’s school is not suitable for School Streets, what else can I do?

Currently local authorities are reluctant to implement School Streets on busy main roads; there are fears that major road closures would cause traffic jams and create a backlash. Even if this is the case, it’s still worth raising awareness at your school. Councils are already speeding up trials of School Streets because so many people are talking about it. We’d like to think that in years to come keeping roads clear for children will become a widely accepted idea. You could also ask your headteacher for other anti-pollution measures, such as putting a green screen around the school, changing the main entrance of the school onto a side street, or to tackle idling drivers outside the school gates. You could also ask your council for traffic calming measures outside the school. Why not set up your own group of concerned parents?

Is there a link between air pollution and the climate crisis?

As well as all the nasty toxic gases like NO2 which are released when we burn petrol or diesel as fuel in vehicles, carbon dioxide (CO2) is also released. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Transport accounts for 33% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions and emissions from this sector have not been falling as fast as in other sectors of the economy, such as electricity generation. This is partly due to the large number of cars on the road.

How does air pollution harm me and my children?

Evidence is mounting of associations between air pollution and a number of conditions, such as heart and lung disease, respiratory conditions, dementia and miscarriage, stunted lungs and teenage psychotic episodes. Children and babies are worse affected because their lungs are still forming. They are smaller and therefore closer to vehicle exhaust pipes.

How can I set up a campaign group?

Find a couple of other people who want to campaign with you, consider what your main focus of campaign is going to be and then email us if you think you might be interested to join the Mums for Lungs family for further discussion.

What can I do to lobby authorities to enforce anti-idling measures?

Enforcement of anti-idling lies with local councils. Councils can ask traffic wardens to enforce idling rules, but enforcement is poor because of a lack of resources. There are also loopholes such as the fact that wardens can only fine drivers if they refuse to turn off. You can consider emailing or talking to your ward councillors or cabinet member for environment/traffic/clean air; find out what they are doing and ask them to charge parking wardens with idling enforcement. Or get our flyers and do it yourself!

What can I do to make the government act?

Let your elected representatives know you care about air pollution. Your MP and councillors will only take action if they think enough people are angry, and that air pollution is an issue which will lose votes. Send councillors, MPs and ministers at departments such as DEFRA an email. We regularly run letter writing campaigns on our website so look out for our latest action.

Are diesel scrappage schemes up and running?

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has set up two small scrappage schemes in line with the introduction of the ULEZ. However there is insufficient funding to take this further. Mums for Lungs and other groups have repeatedly lobbied the government and we are disappointed with the outcome so far.

How can I protect my children from air pollution?

There are daily air pollution forecasts in London which give advance warning of pollution hotspots. You can subscribe to the London forecast , or in some surrounding areas you can get forecasts from airAlert. Transport for London is beginning to display pollution alerts on bus stops and on the underground. If you’re out and about with small children, take quiet back streets instead of main roads. Stay away from the kerb and stand back as you wait for traffic lights to change. Children and babies are at the height of car exhaust pipes so will be breathing in more pollution than you.

How should I approach idlers?

Having our flyers to hand out can make approaching drivers much easier. We have a variety of approaches, but Aimee from our E17 branch gives the following advice: “I tap on the window (always smiling) and gently either say ‘Will you be here for long?’ or ‘do you need your engine on right now?’. This usually opens up a bit of a chat and once you engage if someone is open to a discussion we say ‘Can I just give you this flyer with all the info about how harmful idling is to both you and/or children’. By this point most people have already switched off. Most you win but some you lose, but handing out the flyer is really helpful. Even if they don’t switch off immediately they might think about it later.”

Are you just a group for mums?

No! We chose the name Mums for Lungs because we thought it sounded good. In just two short years we’ve become really well known through the name that we feel it would be too difficult to change it now. We have several dads (and even grandparents!) who support us and campaign with us.

Are electric vehicles (EVs) the answer?

EVs are becoming more popular and offer some solutions in terms of reducing carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from road transport. However EVs release around the same amount of Particulate Matter (PM) into the atmosphere as combustion engines, through tyre wear and the fact that they are generally heavier. Added to this, simply replacing the diesel/petrol fleet with EVs will do little to reduce congestion and make streets safer for walking and cycling.