Air Pollution: Family’s self imposed asthma exile over clean air fears

Katherine Johnston (05 December, 2018) Environment Health

'We do not feel that change is taking place fast enough for our children’s developing lungs'

26913Kimberley's two children

Kimberley with her family

Southwark is in the top ten worst places in London for people with asthma and concerned parents are leaving in search of clean air, writes Nora Selina Helal…

A new study has revealed Southwark is in the top ten worst places in London to have asthma, as families tell the News they are packing up for the country to protect their kids from dangerous air pollution – though many will be unable to do so for financial reasons and must stay put.

People suffering with asthma are more likely to be hospitalised or die from an asthma attack if they live in poorer areas, according to research from charity Asthma UK.

Its new report On the edge: How inequality affects people with asthma shows people living in poorer areas in are more likely to be exposed to serious air pollution, smoking, poor housing and challenges in getting the care they need – all linked to increased hospital admissions and often preventable deaths.

Southwark is ranked as the eighth worst place in London to have asthma due to a high number of emergency admissions, with 451 people hospitalised for asthma last year, compared to 434 people in Lambeth and 396 in Lewisham. Croydon is ranked worst overall, as it has the highest number of hospital admissions for asthmatics in the capital.

Shockingly, asthma kills three people every day in the UK, but it is believed two thirds of these deaths could have been avoided.

As the News has reported, schools in Southwark are resorting to special air filters and even fundraising for face masks to protect kids from dangerous levels of air pollution reported across the borough.

An air quality campaigner and mum of two from East Dulwich, Kimberley Hickman, believes her five-year-old son Theo developed asthma partly due to increased pollution levels.

She said: “We have decided to leave London and move to the countryside in the New Year partly because of the air quality in the area – we do not feel that change is taking place fast enough for our children’s developing lungs.

“For us it’s not just about protecting our child from his asthma symptoms, but it’s also about protecting both of our children from the long-term damage to their lung capacities.

“We know that the asthma symptoms are worsened by being in the city, we can see that.

“I do hope, though, that one day I will be able to encourage my children to come back and live in London when the air here is safer, as we have loved bringing them up here and are very sad to leave.”

Mrs Hickman added: “I feel let down – there is not enough awareness out there, the problem is not being dealt with quickly enough and the public are not being told enough about the issue and the dangers.”

She said that not enough is being done and suggested that long-term behavioural changes and emergency measures needed to be put in place.

“This is an urgent public health matter,” she said.

Eleven-year-old asthmatic, Yuseff Adedayin, from Camberwell, told the News: “Growing up here as a kid you don’t really look into things like bad air, but then when you’re faced with it it’s kind of upsetting.

“There are seven people in my class who have been diagnosed with asthma.

“We want to be able to play outside and to be free and do things that kids normally do, but the air is causing us to shy away from doing things like that.

“That’s why a lot of kids just stay at home and play computer games instead of going outside because there’s no fresh air.”

Mum of three, Kafayat Lawal, 39, from Camberwell has also considered moving because of the impact the air has on her asthmatic son.

She said: “There’s just a smell in the air and where you know you’re not breathing clean air – you can just feel it.

“The congestion is bad, it’s just horrendous – we need cleaner air – whatever the government can do to help would be fantastic because the kids are being affected.

“There are more children being diagnosed with asthma these days in the area – more needs to be done.”

Yuseff Adedayin and his family

Dr Samantha Walker, director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said: “It is truly shocking that people in deprived areas are not only struggling to make ends meet, but if they have asthma, they are more likely to end up in hospital or die from an asthma attack.

“We should all have an equal right to breathe.”

For more information visit www.asthma.org.uk

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