This Breathe Easy Week 12-18 June, the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) local lung health support group, Breathe Easy Westminster will be campaigning for cleaner air. The week coincides with National Clean Air Day, 15 June.
Westminster is one of the most polluted boroughs in London, with some roads, such as Oxford Street and the Strand, reaching annual average levels of nitrogen dioxide at over 100 µg/m3, the legal and safe limit is 40 µg/m3.
Up to 9,400 people die early from air pollution every year in London. 97 educational establishments, schools, nurseries and colleges, are located within illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in Westminster.
To highlight the damage air pollution can cause to people’s lung health, the group will be hosting an information stand at St Mary’s Hospital main foyer on Thursday 15 June between 9am and midday; and also at Pimlico Library on Wednesday 14 June between midday and 4pm. The latter will offer spirometry testing, to help people find out if they have a respiratory condition.
The British Lung Foundation states that for many people with a lung condition, air pollution makes their condition worse. They have to avoid busy roads, and in some cases, are left housebound when air quality is particularly bad.
Tessa Jelen, Chair of Breathe Easy Westminster, explains that tiny pollution particles can pass through lungs into the bloodstream, meaning air pollution could be linked to many health problems.
“Over short periods, high levels of pollution can cause irreparable damage to the lining of our lungs. This can lead to coughing, wheeziness, and breathlessness, particularly among people with a pre-existing lung condition,” says Jelen. “Long-term exposure to high air pollution increases the risk of getting lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.”
Poor air quality contributes to the equivalent of 40,000 early deaths a year across the UK, and hits hardest people with a lung condition, children and the elderly.
During Breathe Easy Week, the British Lung Foundation’s Breathe Easy support groups all over the UK will be showcasing the range of activities they do. Breathe Easy groups provide free support for anybody affected by any lung condition, from lung cancer and COPD to rarer conditions such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and mesothelioma. Breathe Easy groups also organise events, campaign on key issues, and feature regular guest speakers at meetings.
The Westminster Breathe Easy group is supporting the British Lung Foundation’s call for a new, fair and ambitious Clean Air Act.
“Many of our members have lung conditions, made worse by pollution. We avoid main roads and other pollution hotspots, checking DEFRA’s air quality forecasts before going out,” says Jelen. “The government needs to take tough action in tackling major sources of pollution, such as from diesel emissions.”
Representatives from Client Earth and Kings College have spoken about air pollution at Westminster Breathe Easy group meetings. With Tessa recently attending both the Royal and Supreme Court in support of the legal challenge to the government on the issue of clean air.
For further information on the British Lung Foundation’s campaign for cleaner air, visit www.blf.org.uk/cleanair
For further information on Breathe Easy groups, visit www.blf.org.uk/breathe-easy