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Alika and his son

Health effects of air pollution

Alika's story

9 March 2020

Alika and Alex, 3, live in Southwark. Alika, who moved to London from Nigeria in 2000, is doing an electrical apprenticeship by day and is a youth worker by night.

Meet Alika

Alika and Alex, 3, live in Southwark. Alika, who moved to London from Nigeria in 2000, is doing an electrical apprenticeship by day and is a youth worker by night.

Alika and Alex walk and play around Bermondsey where they live. The main roads in this area have high levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide:

  • Workplace in central London – moderate level of air pollution (46 ug/m3)
  • Nursery – very high level of air pollution (>58 ug/m3)
  • Visiting relatives – moderate level of air pollution off the main road (40 ug/m3), very high on the main road (>58 ug/m3)
  • Park – low level of air pollution (37 ug/m3)

Alika's experience

I love the parks, due to the fact that me and my little one can go out and catch some fresh air and he can run up and down. I don’t have to travel far for any of that. 

When I’m walking, we use the quieter routes so that we’re not near the main roads. We do that because you become more conscious of air pollution when you have your child with you. I know that he’s not breathing in any nonsense.

It affects the young ones especially, their lungs aren’t developed yet to start dealing with extreme circumstances where it’s really bad with pollution. I understand why someone will say you are not allowed to drive past a school at pick up and drop off times. But I can also see why that would frustrate a lot of drivers. The bad effect is probably more traffic somewhere else down the road. Because they are still going to drive, aren’t they? So it’s good and bad.

I don’t really go into the Ultra Low Emission Zone, but I can’t say I’ve seen fewer cars on the road. I’ve seen more electric cars, though. I think that it is a step in the right direction. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people, but it’s one of those that needs to be done.

When I talk about London’s air quality problem it’s one of those things I don’t feel is mine.

Alika

For starters, it’s definitely not anything to do with the borough, it’s a London-wide problem.

I’m very keen on recycling. So that’s where my mind goes when I think of the environment – but not really with transport.

My main problem right now is more about the state of the world. Like are people recycling enough? Or the worry that are people chopping down too many trees in the world and causing all sorts of stupidness.

That’s what I’m worried about as opposed to London’s specific air problem. It’s also down to us to very clearly articulate to our government – we all live on the same earth, you need to protect it.

I can see the difference between being outside of London and being in it. You’re breathing in this thicker air that doesn’t feel as clean. But it just doesn’t bother me enough. I think to myself, it’s always been this way, if not worse, so it’s not that bad.