Sunday, May 26News For London

Air pollution hitting deprived and POC communities hardest

Air pollution burdens low income and communities of colour resulting in major health risks. 

Source: Unsplash

The British Heart Foundation found that 15 million Brits are exposed to toxic air. The majority of which are people of colour and those within deprived communities; a report conducted by Natural England in 2019 revealed Britons who are POC were exposed to particulate matter pollution rates at 19-29% higher than White Britons. 

Environmental racism is a form of systematic racism where communities of colour are disproportionately burdened with health hazards through policies and practices that force them to reside near or around polluted areas.

Environmental Justice is not simply highlighting the discrepancies but allowing the redistribution of decision-making power back to communities that are systematically impacted by environmental racism. 

Research conducted by City Hall found deprived areas and areas with higher proportions of people from non-white backgrounds have higher levels of toxic air pollution than caucasian dominated areas. 

When discussing solutions in regards to air pollution and its effects on deprived communities, Tara, 22, stated: “People in disproportionate, low economic areas suffer more, due to extra pollution and I think that needs to be at the forefront.”

The report also found 3.1 million children go to school in areas with toxic air. This sobering data became a reality in April when an inquest found Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine year old who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham in South London became the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

In regards to a solution automotive engineer Aditya Pawar, 24, said the introduction of electric taxis would be good to reduce air pollution following the positive effects of hydrogen buses.

“Hydrogen busses are doing great, it be nice if black taxis are turned into electric”

Aditya Pawar, 24, automotive engineer 

Beyond amplifying the voices of environmental justice activists, it is of importance that allies are strategic in their solutions to solve these injustices. 

The strength protests had is evident in a report by Air Quality which found the climate campaign group Extinction Rebellion protests in 2019 had a positive impact on the capital’s air quality. Westminster World approached pedestrians on The Strand regarding the previous protests, a young woman said protesting is a solution as it alerts older generations to the severity of the current environmental crisis. 

Other solutions may be allies boycotting corporations that partake in negative environmental practices, hold community officials accountable, and donate directly to organizations advocating for environmental justice or volunteer.  

Organisations such as Chokedup and BreatheLife directly work with communities to reduce the impact of pollution, while raising awareness to create better legislation for impacted areas.  

Mayor Sadiq Khan also introduced stricter ULEZ standards aiming to reach the WHO standards limitations. Since measures have been put in place research by City Hall found there has been a 20% reduction in nitrogen dioxide since 2016. However Twitter users have shown annoyance against the new rules.

In addition organisation London Air have input sensors monitoring the rate of air pollution across London in a bid to find a solution for aiding the most polluted areas. 

To further aid communities it is essential for more POC and people from deprived communities to be in leading roles in the fight against air pollution.