The painful truth about air pollution and its effect on children in London

The painful truth about air pollution and its effect on children in London

One in 10 young people are affected by asthma – meaning in London alone 240,000 have asthma.

Behind the shocking statistics are the children adversely impacted by a sharp rise in air pollution in the capital with many suffering from severe respiratory conditions.

“There’s not a week that goes by when we don’t see a child with a respiratory condition on our wards,” is the strong warning a doctor has given about the serious harm air pollution is causing young Londoners.

Poor air quality is damaging to everyone but particularly effects children; stunting the growth of their lungs and worsening chronic illnesses, such as asthma, worsening lung and heart disease. – reports MyLondon

One child affected is 12-year-old Salma Selim, who, along with her mum Shaimaa, met with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week at Evelina London Children’s Hospital to discuss the levels of toxic air pollution concerned. Salma is being treated at the hospital, which has a specialist children’s service leading the way in children’s respiratory research.

Shaimaa told MyLondon: “My daughter has been dealing with asthma since age four. It’s hard for her to breathe with the amount of cars, buses and taxi’s in London. When she is laughing, she ends up coughing. She can’t laugh like everyone else, like a normal girl.”

Shaimaa and her daughter Salma live in Lewisham, the same borough where a nine-year old school girl Ella Roberta died from asthma, the first to be directly linked to exposure to severe air pollution from living 25 meters from the South Circular in South East London .

“It does worry me” Shaimaa added, referencing the tragic Ella Roberta case. “[Salma] can’t breathe, it’s really too much for her, the pollution. You can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there”

While Evelina London Children’s Hospital and its staff are leading the way in supporting children like Salma once they enter the hospital doors – air pollution is silently working away in the background effecting everyone, but particularly London’s poorest communities, Mr Khan highlighted.

To make matters worse every hospital in London is in an area the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as having toxic air pollution, latest research shows.

Londoners on lower incomes are more likely to live in areas of the city worst affected by air pollution but are least likely to own a car and so contribute to the problem. Shaimaa said the damp in the house has a huge effect on Salma’s asthma – keeping her awake and coughing for much of the night.

Claire Lemer, Clinical Director at Evelina London Children’s Hospital said: “Sadly, there’s not a week that goes by when we don’t see a child with a respiratory condition on our wards. Reducing air pollution will help to improve the lives of children and young people across the city, reducing unnecessary visits to hospital and helping them to lead healthier lives.”

Recent research has also linked long Covid with abnormalities identified in the lungs of long Covid patients experiencing breathlessness after their initial infection. There is also growing evidence of an association between air pollution and Covid-19.

Staff at Evelina London have been leading the way in Covid-19 research and were first to discover a rare inflammatory condition in children linked to Covid-19 called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS-TS).

Symptoms include a widespread rash, bloodshot eyes, swollen fingers and toes and a prolonged fever. To date they have successfully treated more than 300 patients.

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