Groups of families began protesting the dangerous levels of air pollution in Leeds last Wednesday.
The anti-pollution campaign group refer to themselves as ‘The Air Team’ and gathered on Infirmary Street to show their growing concern for the children of Leeds and the ‘invisible threat’ posed to them.
At two bus stops in the city centre, The Air Team installed aeroplane-inspired oxygen masks in order to demonstrate the high levels of pollution caused by the busy bus route. They also handed out leaflets to the public which highlighted the dangers of roadside pollution as well as possible methods to reduce exposure to it.
The group of demonstrators are urging both the government and the Leeds City Council to do more to reduce emissions in Leeds.
Research has shown that air pollution is one of the greatest health risks we face in the UK today as it has been linked to asthma, lung cancer and dementia. The Air Team dub it the ‘silent killer’.
Data released by King’s College London has shown that hundreds of children and adults across the UK are suffering from cardiac arrests, strokes or severe asthma attacks on days where there are higher levels of pollution. In February, Neville Street in Leeds city centre was found by Friends of The Earth to be the most polluted street outside of London.
The Air Team is not limited to Leeds. Similar protests have taken place in major UK cities such as London and Manchester. Young activists in Crouch End, North London, wore gas masks at their school gates in order to raise awareness about the dangers of parents unnecessarily leaving their cars running when dropping their children off at school. A number of other schools in the area have now adopted the idea.
Ellen Clarke, a mum-of-two who lives in Oakwood, Leeds, said: ‘It’s hard to breathe on the road that we have to walk along to get to school, especially when it’s raining and everyone decides to use their car’.
She added, ‘I’ve got little children whose lungs are still developing and we have no choice but to walk along these really busy and heavily polluted roads every day’.
The Air Team state that exposure to high levels of air pollution during childhood can lead to permanently reduced lung function. On top of that, dirty air can cause development issues for foetuses.
The Air Team have aptly stated: ‘This isn’t the Victorian age. Our children deserve better.’
Charly Loughlin – News Editor
Image source: The Air Team / Pete Abel