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Sarah

Health effects of air pollution

Sarah's story

9 March 2020

Sarah is an outdoor worker for an environmental education charity in Lambeth. She doesn’t own a car and tries to cycle most places, with public transport her back-up option.

Meet Sarah

Sarah is an outdoor worker for an environmental education charity in Lambeth. She doesn’t own a car and tries to cycle most places, with public transport her back-up option.

Sarah’s daily cycle takes her to North Lambeth and Waterloo, one of the most polluted areas in the borough. Other areas she travels to and from also experience high levels of air pollution:

  • Area around her home – moderate level of air pollution off the main road (40 ug/m3), very high on the main road (>58 ug/m3)
  • Walking with her students near a major London train station – very high levels of pollution (>58 ug/m3)
  • Flower market on the Southbank – moderate level of pollution (40 ug/m3)
  • Cycling through a housing estate to avoid the main roads – moderate level of pollution (43 ug/m3)
Sarah gardening
Sarah at work outside

Sarah's experience

Even with all the urban areas around here, there’s quite a lot of green space if you know where to look. I think that’s good. Cities need that. It’s the lungs of the city.

But I’ve noticed that my asthma is getting worse in recent years, especially when we’ve had the hot, hot weather and you can see the pollution hanging. I cycle around a lot and I get more breathless and have to take my puffer more.

I think it’s got to do with the traffic and increased construction round here. They’re doing a lot of building and you really notice when the rain comes down – it’s dirty rain from all the dust in the air.

We’re getting a bit like Bejing and Tokyo where because of air pollution you can’t go out.

I think air pollution is both a health and an environmental issue – a lot of air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels. I think it all interacts. But if you are affected, or members of your family are affected, it’s more of a health issue.

It’s not just me. There are more kids with asthma now than there ever used to be and people with more lung conditions and stuff.

Sarah

When cycling, I try to take the quieter back roads. You have to keep your wits about you because obviously you’re quite vulnerable on your bike. There’s still a lot of SUVs around – four-wheel drives in the middle of London!

The thing that really bugs me is people drive their kids to school when they could walk more. You see such a difference in the amount of traffic on the roads in the school holidays. It’s not a thing about distance, it’s just about convenience – children being driven to school when they could walk.

If there was a better public transport system, people would think about car ownership. Or if they’ve got two cars they’d say, ‘Oh, maybe we can cut down to one so it doesn’t impinge on people’s lives so much.’

Responsibility for the problem should be at all levels, though. It should be governmental and then down to local boroughs and the mayor and stuff. I think everybody should be working together.