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Air Quality Findings Show Inequality Affecting Asthma in Children

Of late, the number of children and young patients admitted to London hospitals due to asthma has increased. City Hall records indicate that over 3,600 were admitted in 2021/2022, an increase of around 64% from the previous year when COVID-19 kept everyone at home and pollution levels were down. In June 2022 alone, there were 229 hospitalisations linked to children with asthma. 

These numbers support several studies that say that marginalised and minority ethnic communities are typically the ones that are most exposed to toxic air. Nitrogen dioxide or NO2 in London is higher by between 16 and 27% in Asian, Black, and minority ethnic neighbourhoods. 

Additionally, research commissioned by City Hall further showed that most of the families and individuals in these communities – some of the poorest in the city – couldn’t afford to purchase their vehicle, yet they are the most impacted. 

From 2017 to 2019, asthma admissions involving children below 15 years were approximately 700 or 7% of the total number of children admitted for asthma in London. 

One of the members of a parents’ campaign organisation painted a clear picture of the current situation. Her son was in and out of the hospital 13 times because of breathing problems. At least one in 10 children in London has asthma and her son is one of them. The multiple hospital visits scared her because she saw how her son was struggling to breathe. This is one of the reasons why the organisation is advocating that programs to reduce dirty air should be prioritised.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, expressed his determination to protect the children from polluted air. With the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the mayor hopes to bring down emissions levels and make the city safer to live in for five million more Londoners. 

Previous studies linking air pollution to poverty, ethnicity, and ill health were conducted by other organisations, specifically The Runnymede Trust and Friends of the Earth.

Asthma and air pollution

There are a lot of people who still do not understand, much less know, that air pollution has a significant effect on individuals, especially those with asthma. Some people know that attacks are often caused by allergic reactions or stress, but dirty air is rarely talked about when someone has asthma. Groups and campaigners such as the parents’ campaign organisation are actively involved in helping more people understand.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the mother of Ella, whose death made the headlines in 2013, is one of the campaigners who advocate for more air pollution information to be passed on to the public. People need to know which areas have high toxic air levels and that exposure to these emissions can harm the environment and their health. Ella is such a tragic case; she died after a severe asthma attack at the young age of nine. She and Rosamund lived in the South Circular Road area and were constantly exposed to dirty air.

An inquest on her death was requested and in December 2020, seven years later, the coroner formally confirmed that Ella died because of air pollution. Hers was the first case of its kind in the UK.

Asthma + Lung UK’s Sarah Woolnough said that children shouldn’t be hospitalised because of breathing the air around them. Breathing cleaner air should not be a privilege but a right.

Diesel emissions

A significant percentage of the toxic air that children breathe in comes from diesel vehicle emissions. These emissions are known as nitrogen oxides or NOx, and they’re highly reactive and dangerous. NOx can destroy the environment as it contains NO2 and nitric oxide, both powerful gases that can produce acid rain, smog, and ground-level ozone. NOx damages crops, plants, and other vegetation.

Aside from asthma, people exposed to NOx emissions can suffer from various health impacts, such as asphyxiation, chronic reduction of lung function, laryngospasm, and emphysema. Serious cases can lead to certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and premature death (such as in Ella’s case). 

These impacts are the reason why carmakers involved in the diesel emissions scandal should be held responsible for their actions. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and many other manufacturers are all involved in the Dieselgate scandal and have paid millions in payoffs for using defeat devices in their vehicles.

Defeat devices can tell when a vehicle is in regulatory testing and artificially bring down emissions to within the WHO or World Health Organization-mandated levels. However, when the vehicle is driven on real roads, default settings in the vehicle are activated and NOx emissions are higher than normal. As such, the manufacturers deceived their customers and exposed them to dangerous emissions.

Am I eligible to file my diesel claim?

If you suspect that your vehicle is equipped with a defeat device, you can bring forward an emissions claim against your carmaker. You should be compensated for the danger and inconvenience they subjected you to. 

However, you need to determine first if you are eligible to make a claim. You’ll have to verify that your vehicle is one of the affected models. You’ll find all the information you need to start your claim at Visit their website now.

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