BY ALEX PUGH
A new grassroots campaign to improve air quality for kids is setting its sights on Lewisham in a bid to make it safer for youngsters growing up in inner London.
The Mums for Lungs’ School Streets campaign, which is bidding to raise awareness of the link between exhaust fumes and children’s health, wants roads around schools closed at pick-up and drop-off times.
Lambeth-based Mums for Lungs has contacted almost 300 schools across London about the dangers of the capital’s toxic air. Its members have written to head teachers, governors and parent teacher associations.
The initiative would see new signs put up informing pupils, teachers, local residents, drivers, parents and carers of the road closures.
Closures would also be enforced with barriers or cameras. Residents, local businesses and blue badge holders would be able to apply for an exemption, under their proposed scheme.
Mums for Lungs founder and Herne Hill mum Jemima Hartshorn, pictured, said: “We see our role as supporting and enabling busy schools to seek more information about School Streets.
“If we can help parents to speak with a unified voice to demand action on air pollution, we think we can quickly make School Streets a widely-accepted scheme across London.”
Ms Hartshorn was invited to speak at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland last December.
The campaign’s expansion into Lewisham comes as the mother of a child whose death was linked to air pollution has been selected as a Green Party candidate for the Lewisham and Greenwich constituency.
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah (inset), of Forest Hill, will stand in the next London Assembly election in May 2020.
Her daughter Ella died in February 2013 after a severe asthma attack.
Evidence presented after Ella’s death found that pollution levels around the South Circular Road in Forest Hill jumped at the same time as the 27 asthma attacks that preceded her death.
The nine-year-old had been in and out of hospital for three years.
Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because of their smaller lungs. Their height also means they are closer to the exhaust pipes of road traffic.
Up to 9,500 deaths are linked to air pollution in London every year, according to research carried out three years ago by King’s College, London.