Air Pollution is Heartbreaking

Our new air quality campaign hits the streets of Southampton this week to highlight the damaging impacts of air pollution on children. We commissioned local artist Nathan Evans to create striking posters which make clear the link between dirty air and children’s health. They will appear near schools and playgrounds across the city on Thursday 8th October – Clean Air Day 2020 – the UK’s largest campaign for tackling air pollution and will form part of our Breathing Spaces project.

The number of premature deaths associated with fine particle pollution each year in Southampton is now 168 – an increase of 50% in less than a decade. Our children are more vulnerable to air pollution, growing up with stunted lungs, poor mental health and a lower life expectancy. Just a 20% improvement in the city’s air quality would mean every year 150 fewer children would suffer from low lung function.

New research also shows that high levels of air pollution can impact children’s ability to learn. As many schools and playgrounds in Southampton are sited near busy roads, initiatives such as School Streets should become a priority. The illegal levels of air pollution and high numbers of road traffic injuries make Southampton one of the least safe places in the UK for children to be outdoors.

“Air pollution is not a ‘green’ issue, it is about our health. Toxic air is an invisible killer which affects every single organ in the body and children are most susceptible because their bodies are still growing. We need to start talking about creating healthy neighbourhoods and safer streets for us all.”

Mandi Bissett, a Director of The Southampton Collective and co-ordinator of the Breathing Spaces campaign

The campaign poster encourages residents to walk and cycle, speak up about clean air issues, and avoid burning wood.

Motorised transport has long been a hot topic for the city but most people don’t realise that wood-burning stoves and firepits also create fine particle pollution. This can get deep into the heart, lungs and brain.

“Much of the city’s population is vulnerable to air pollution due to age, health or where they live. Toxic air has also been linked with mental health issues and so it’s very appropriate that Clean Air Day and World Mental Health Day fall in the same week this year. The good news is that there are actions that we can all take to improve air quality. If we work together then we could make substantial improvements to people’s health.”

Rebecca Kinge, a Director of The Southampton Collective and co-ordinator of the Southampton Art in Health Forum

The artwork for the campaign was funded by the RSA through a Catalyst Award.

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