Anti Pollution campaigners from Manchester have sympathised with the residents of Sandy Road Llanelli in their plight to try and resolve health issues, which residents say are impacting on their children’s lives.
Ruth Todhunter has been trialling new equipment provided by the British Lung Foundation to measure pollution levels outside the school her daughter Jess attends.
Ruth’s daughter Jess and her friend Jannat interviewed Robert Nunney of the Green Party as part of their campaign to clean up the air around their school.
Jess and Jannat have become quite a formidable pair of interviewers as local councillors found out when they told the council: “Manchester City Council do not care about children’s health”.
Jess and her friends designed a T-Shirt for the Lung Foundation and after speaking to a motorist who had left his engine on the motorist said that he wanted to help. He happened to have trained in pharmacy and had some knowledge of the impact of pollution. Ruth said: “He bought a hoodie and revealed that his wife had also died from lung cancer.”
On a recent visit to Wales Ruth popped in to the studio to talk about the issues people are facing in Manchester. We can also reveal that there is going to be a major television focus on the campaign by one of the U.K’s most loved soaps.
Ruth said that she sympathised with the residents of Sandy Road in Llanelli as she had witnessed similar problems in some of the leafy suburbs of Manchester with the large volume of cars now on the roads. Some people even use their vehicles as additional rooms to work.
Ruth said: “We became concerned over the number of children developing asthma and did some research. We were then approached by the British Lung Foundation who provided us with kits to measure the pollution levels outside my daughter’s school.
“What we found was that things worsened during the school run especially when people left their cars running. We took a proactive approached and began speaking to parents and motorists and within a short time people had changed their habits.”
The organisation Mums for Lungs agrees and said: “Idling is a frustrating and unnecessary source of air pollution. Many parents in our network have repeatedly witnessed it happening outside schools, in town centres, playgrounds and at hospitals. As well as the increase in localised air pollution, leaving an engine idling wastes fuel and money.
“In order to raise awareness about why idling is so problematic, many of our members have been approaching idling drivers at the kerbside and outside schools. We give them a flyer, speak to them in a friendly manner to ask if they’re about to move off and if they’re not, explain the damage idling can do. We’ve co-ordinated with a number of schools to hand out idling letters in the children’s school bags, or send them out digitally with newsletters.”
Mums for Lungs also wrote to 18 councils across London in 2019 asking them to do more to use parking enforcement solutions to tackle idling. This was a joint letter with 23 community groups, signed by over 400 people.
Ruth explained that they also asked parents to park further away from the school gates and that also improved the situation. When asked if she was merely moving the problem to another area she said, “That maybe, but it was an area where children don’t congregates.”
Environmentalists like Greta Thunberg have come in for criticism online from people pointing out that without industry and the related pollution we would not be as developed as we are today and that the environmentalists would not have many of the essential items they have today.
It is an argument of sorts but it is not a solution. Politicians are championing electric vehicles, planting of trees and different approaches to controlling traffic. Some areas are trialling the use of cargo bikes for deliveries and the results have been surprising in that the bikes are speedier and more efficient and of course environmentally friendly.
The report was commissioned by climate charity ‘Possible’ an found that electric cargo bikes deliver about 60% faster than vans in city centres.
It found that bikes had a higher average speed and dropped off 10 parcels an hour, compared with six for vans. The bikes also cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third compared with electric vans, the report said. Air pollution, which is still at illegal (dangerous) levels in many urban areas, was also significantly reduced.
Ruth was involved in the production of a video for the British Lung Foundation:
Residents in Sandy Road will be looking closely at some of the work especially the legal challenges to local authorities.
In 2018 the Welsh Government conceded but the UK government contested an air pollution case brought by Client Earth.
The judge in ClientEarth’s case against the UK and Welsh governments over illegal levels of air pollution had reserved judgment after a hearing at the High Court in London.
Early in the hearing, the Welsh government conceded that the lack of a plan to tackle air pollution was unlawful and agreed that it would draw up a timetabled air quality plan for Wales.
You can listen to Ruth’s interview here: