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‘We only have 12 years’: What can you do to prevent air pollution?

Air pollution in Cardiff has increased and the air quality has hit a new low.What can you do at your level to better the situation?

Polluted air in Cardiff is increasingly linked to medical conditions, especially in children

Cardiff is UK’s fastest growing city with the air pollution problem increasing day by day. One of the primary concerns for Wales is nitrogen dioxide. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (No2) in Cardiff and the Vale’s residential areas are the highest in Wales and will soon exceed legal limits.

The Council’s report stated an annual average value of 38.2 micrograms per cubic metre whereas the legal limit is 40 micrograms per cubic metre. Particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution, another contributor to air pollution, is also high in Cardiff than other areas in Wales.

Over the years, more research is being conducted and more people are becoming aware of the problem than they were a few years ago. “We are all breathing toxic air, which is bad for our health. There wasn’t a lot of research into it, and in the recent years there has been study after study linking it to a number of conditions” said Celeste Hicks, from Mums For Lungs, a London based group working towards raising awareness about air pollution.

With the research done in recent years, air pollution has been linked with a number of health conditions such as asthma. Benzaopyrene (BaP) is a component of particulate matter that is generated by diesels and linked with mental health and neurocognitive problems in children.

“Educating the youth is our only chance at saving the planet” said Brandon, an activist and parent

“Air pollution is linked to a number of conditions such as respiratory conditions, dementia and even miscarriage,” said Celeste. “It may have been that this was the case ten years ago but we just didn’t know about it as a society but we know now. We believe it is unacceptable that we are being exposed to toxic air. It is especially unfair on babies and children because their lungs are smaller and they’re exposed to more pollutants more directly than adults are.”

According to Cardiff Council’s report, plans are already underway to improve the air quality in the city and tackle the air pollution problem. There is quite a lot that we can do at our level to tackle the air pollution problem and improve the air quality around us.

“Probably the best thing you can do is leave the car at home. Think about whether you really need to drive- so many local journeys are under a couple of miles. Walking, cycling and scooting are better for your children’s health,” says Celeste.  “If you do get stuck in traffic, you will end up breathing more toxic air than if you were walking along the road.”

Since 1988 100 companies across the planet are responsible for 71% of all emissions so it is important that to tell the government to stop subsidising the fossil industry and invest massively into renewable energies, according to John Williams, an activist for the Socialist Party.

“We need socialist change, more than climate change” said John Williams at the protest on 16th March

“Yes, it’s expensive to invest in renewable energy so we have to do everything we can to bring about change. We need to bring in trade unions, youth workers, students, and everyone else we can to get involved in local grassroot politics.” says John.

“The Government’s recently released plan is a very important move but really just dealing with things by checking money, dealing with consequences will never be effective as dealing with root causes which means dealing with the problems before they arise. Minor changes won’t cut it, we only have 12 years.” says John McCarthy, a student of UWC Atlantic College and activist for climate change.

Campaigning, raising awareness, sharing stories with classmates, arranging debates at schools, working with the school to reduce pollution levels around the school are some things that can be easily done at our level to better the situation. “Often air pollution hotspots occur around schools at pick up and drop off times because so many parents drive to school to collect and drop their children, and leave their engines running.” says Celeste.

“In my days, we were 17 and we jumped in a car ready to go. Both my daughters, 8 and 5, have been helping me campaign in the past two years and they’ve learnt that protecting our environment is important,” says Brandon, a parent and activist from Cardiff. “I’ve been doing this since I was of their age and I’m yet to see the changes. We need to educate the youth and tell them that this is their earth to protect now.”

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