It’s killing you.
Two of my interests are the protection of our environment and cycling so one particular topic that pops up on my radar time and time again is that of air pollution.
A year ago I went on a protest against the wider issue of climate change entitled “Time to Act“. It is now time to act. Combating the immediate problem of the poor quality air we breathe, will contribute towards lowering emissions which will have an effect on climate change. Something needs to be done now!
I was listening to BBC Radio 2′s Jeremy Vine show the other day and a segment by producer Tim Johns‘ revealed the incredibly high level of fumes we are exposed to every day – no matter which mode of transport we choose – on foot, one, two, three, four, fourteen or forty.
I have been aware of air pollution for a very long time. On my bicycle, waiting in queues of traffic with vehicle exhausts just metres in front of me, I smelt the muck as I inhaled. When I got home to the town of Wellingborough, sometimes blowing my nose produced some black residue and my skin felt dirty. Ewww. This is in the air we all have to breathe. What’s worrying though is that the most potent problem is the colourless and odourless pollutants; these are tiny particulates.
So despite the thick, black smoke that blows in my face as cycle behind a bus, it is those which I cannot sense which are causing me the most damage. Sorry, I forgot. It’s not only me. The environment is exactly that and a bus in front of me will still harm someone walking a few metres away on the pavement. It affects everyone to differing degrees.
You may think that it doesn’t cause any harm whilst sat in a car. Or whilst sitting on a train. It does. A car or train does not completely exclude the outside environment; in seeps the poisonous and deadly gases.
Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
There is a #PollutionProtest on April 27th from 5pm to 6.30pm at the Department for Transport in London. I am going. Come down.
I don’t think the magnitude of this problem is understood enough. Let me put it this way:
Everyone needs the environment. Everyone needs water. If our tap water was polluted to such a degree that drinking it was dangerous we wouldn’t drink it. A nationwide scandal would be in full force and the (ridiculous) plastic bottled water industry would be flourishing. The difference between the two is that water is an object we go to and consume but our environment cannot be turned on and turned off. Short of wearing gas marks, or holding your breath, and taking an occasional inhalation of bottled air, there isn’t much you can do immediately. As a collective, we need to use private petrol and diesel vehicles less, use clean public transport as well as increase our cycling and walking. Travelling 2 miles? Cycle?
See also: Channel 4′s documentary on this entitled Dirty Secrets: What’s Really In Our Air