Justine May

Air quality: a parental perspective

29 July 2016

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO discusses the impact air quality has on families. 

What do parents on Mumsnet think about air quality? We started a discussion on our Talk forums to find out. Many of the responses were impassioned, particularly those from people living in major urban areas.

A family health issue

The biggest concerns are for the health of children and family members; ‘More people now die from pollution-related respiratory problems than they do from smoking. It's damaging our children and yet there's virtually no discussion on it’ said one. Another user living in London’s zone 3 said sadly; ‘Both our kids have asthma and every year things seem to get worse. I and other adults in the family have developed hay fever out of the blue.’

There’s particular anxiety about air quality around schools and nurseries. ‘I work in an Early Years setting very close to an airport, train lines and major roads. I am sure the air around us is of terrible quality.

‘I worry a lot about the children. I have ruled out one local school even though it's Outstanding as it’s on the A406 and the levels of NI have been listed as dangerously high.’

A key priority for the Mayor

There’s a lot of support for further action. ‘I think it should be a key priority for the Mayor of London and the GLA - it's something that they really have the power to control and that makes a huge difference to their constituents' lives. ‘I think the mayor and the assembly should instruct TfL to clean up the buses ASAP, whilst also legislating to encourage cleaner private cars and lorries.’

Many talked about the diesel problem; ‘The negative externalities from diesel have been completely mispriced in the tax system. The resulting overuse of diesel really needs to be addressed.’

There were also a few calls for new tech to be deployed to warn about peaks in poor air quality - and to drive awareness. A nursery worker whose setting is close to a major road said; ‘We could use alerts to decide how much outdoor time is safe for the children (and staff)’. Another remarked: ‘I noticed while on holiday in Spain recently that many towns and cities had electronic signs displaying current air quality in public spaces. Perhaps this might be something we could emulate in London?’

But when it comes to bigger behavioural changes, Mumsnet users recognise the challenges: ‘Many people remain deeply wedded to their cars.’ Overall, while there’s significant support for local government action in London and elsewhere, the consensus seems to be that without concerted national efforts, the room for manoeuvre will be limited - and people will continue to pay the price with their health.

The effects on health of air pollution is clearly a real issue for parents and there is significant support for local government action to tackle the problem.

Take the air quality survey

The Mayor wants to hear Londoners’ views about his plans to tackle air pollution. Take part in the air quality survey to have your say.