Give us truth on toxic air to keep kids safe – it’s time to tackle invisible killer’

News

Remember those heady days of early summer when you could hear the birds singing thanks to the eerie silence on the roads?

Lockdown wasn’t just better for nature, it was also the reset needed for the invisible killer lurking on our streets to finally be tackled.

New research carried out by the University of the West of England has found that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fell by over 40 per cent on main roads near schools during the first month of lockdown.

It highlighted how more people working from home or walking to school reduced levels of the toxic pollutant, which damages every organ and contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and dementia.

Children, whose lungs are still developing, are understood to suffer the most.

Air pollution has been missing from the death certificates of the 40,000 people it sends to an early grave each year in the UK.

But last week, for the first time, after a landmark court case, the lethal impact of the toxic air we breathe was given aface.

It shouldn’t have taken the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013, followed by a lengthy battle for the truth by her mum Rosamund, for the dots to be joined.

Scientists have been telling politicians for years that dirty air kills.

But many have shied away from taking action because the solutions, such as charging drivers of polluting vehicles to enter towns and cities, are unpopular.

Under the Environment Bill, the Government has pledged to set a new legally binding target for fine particles.

But it has not said what that will be or when it should be achieved.

There were many ­heartbreaking revelations from the inquest including how Ella would have been repeatedly terrified by the sensation of drowning as she struggled to breathe.

Another was when her mum said she would have moved house to a less polluted area if she had been informed of the risks.

Government data on our most polluted streets must be made transparent so we can all make decisions on where we choose to live and walk.

A ban on traffic outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times must also be introduced.

And the new Clean Air Act, which mum Rosamund is now seeking, should be known as “Ella’s Law”.

It would carry the name of one little girl who was robbed of her life due to pollution, with a legacy that could save thousands more from the same fate.