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More must be done to clean up London’s toxic air

21st September 2017

Professionals and patients must keep up the pressure on policy makers and government to reduce emissions, writes Dr Jonathan Grigg

As a hospital-based respiratory pediatrician, I look after children living in the East End of London with the most difficult to treat asthma. There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to fossil-fuel emissions causes asthma and once it has developed, makes asthma worse.

It has therefore always been frustrating to me that the official asthma guidelines say virtually nothing about what clinicians should do about this public health emergency.  It is therefore heartening to see Healthy London Partnership addressing this issue. In their Air Pollution Toolkit for NHS Trusts the partnership absolutely correctly states that professionals and patients must keep up the pressure on policy makers and government to reduce emissions from roads.

As a founding member of Doctors against Diesel my own view is clear; that we must remove the current toxic fleet of diesel cars and vans from use as soon as possible. HLPs asthma tool kit also provides sensible advice around what we, as clinicians, can provide to reduce the exposure of asthmatic children to air pollution. This is very useful since pollution levels will not reduce significantly over the short and medium term.

The advice on reducing exposure to air pollution includes; reducing strenuous, outdoor exercise on high pollution days and reducing daily exposure by staying away from pollution hotspots such as busy road junctions.

I very much hope that these sensible suggestions will be incorporated into the UK asthma guidelines as soon as possible (currently the guidelines say very little about ways to avoid air pollution).

We can all play our part in making our air cleaner but the government must do more to reduce emissions from all our roads and allow this generation of children to breathe clean, nontoxic air.

About the author

Dr Jonathan Grigg is a Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and is an honorary consultant paediatrician at The Royal London Hospital.

www.healthylondon.org/ask-about-asthma

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