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Recently a group of Kings Heath residents, with the help of the council and the BBC, held a Clean Air Day. Kings Heath suffers from a worrying level of air pollution, mainly caused by traffic on the high street. At least 900 people die of air pollution in Birmingham every year. It is a public health emergency and the government has repeatedly failed to act.
The BBC programme Fighting for Air is an inspirational watch, showing what can happen when local people come together. Suspending parking bays and timing the traffic lights differently allowed the traffic to flow more smoothly, reducing the NOx level by an amazing 20%. The programme illustrated how stop-start traffic and fast accelaration cause more pollution; steady driving makes a really big positive difference. And far from being a safe cocoon from the polluted air, the car is the worst place to be for poor air quality. You’re much better off walking.
Children are most affected by traffic pollution. Known consequences include permamently damaged and underdeveloped lungs and even cognitive effects. At a local school, children discouraged parents from driving to school on the Clean Air Day, resulting in an incredible 30% reduction in particulate matter.
While we wait for the government to act we can all make a difference. Drive less, Drive smarter.


Watch the programme on BBC iPlayer:
Birmingham City Council air pollution graphic: