Campaign group Mums for Lungs say more must be done to tackle pollution in the borough, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter…
Adults in Waltham Forest are more likely to end up in A&E from asthma attacks than those from almost anywhere else in London.
Public Health England figures from the 2018/19 financial year show only Newham and Brent boroughs had a higher rate of asthmatic adults needing emergency hospital care.
Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for health, Naheed Asghar, said she was “not surprised, yet still saddened” by the borough’s high rate of hospitalisation.
She insisted the council is “doing all [it] can” but that residents “will continue to suffer” unless “councils and the Mayor of London are better supported by the national government”.
Ruth Board, a Lea Bridge campaigner with Mums for Lungs who has seen the effect of pollution on her family firsthand, agreed there will have to be London-wide change before the situation improves.
She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Waltham Forest Council is doing a lot… but it’s not something one council can do on their own, all of London needs to take responsibility.
“The pollution created in West London is blown over by the jet stream to East London so it’s kind of a given that Waltham Forest will be [one of] the worst.
“When my first son was a baby, he was admitted to hospital several times with [the respiratory infection] bronchiolitis and lots of other young children were poorly too.
“I grew up on the south coast and had never come across it until I had a baby in London, which made me wonder what was making it worse here.
“While pregnant with my second baby, I had breathalyser tests [to measure carbon monoxide levels] and, whenever I drove to the appointment, the result would be off the scale. If I didn’t drive, it would be normal.”
She acknowledged efforts to lower the borough’s air pollution “can be quite controversial” but argued they were a “win-win” for everyone, including drivers.
She said: “I think people feel quite powerless and can’t see a way to get around living their lives without cars but I think putting in cycle lanes is a win-win.
“If you need to drive you should be able to… but helping more people cycle will make traffic better for you, it benefits everybody.”
Fellow Mums for Lungs member, Kay Ali, said she was particularly supportive of efforts to encourage fewer parents to drive children to school, such as through School Streets schemes.
She said: “Our local School Street has made such a huge difference – it feels much safer walking with my children, as traffic has been reduced.
“I am also aware that my kids are not breathing in dangerous car emissions every day.”