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Opinion: Ealing Friends of the Earth explains why it welcomes expansion of ULEZ

Ealing Friends of the Earth say: “Protecting Londoners’ health and especially our children, really does have to come first. That’s why Friends of the Earth supports the expansion of ULEZ and we hope others will too.”

“Breathe Better with ULEZ

“Most of us would do almost anything for our children, especially if doctors tell us it’s vital for
their health. And doctors have told us:

“Exposure to air pollution has health effects at every stage of life, from
before birth into old age. The damage is sometimes gradual, and may not
be apparent for many years.” – Royal College of Physicians

Health effects of pollution Public Health England
Health effects of pollution Public Health England

“Well unfortunately London’s air is pretty filthy, even if the pollution is not visible to the eye. Our government has failed to bring the UK within legal limits, let alone the World Health Organization guidelines. London-wide the bad air causes approximately 4,000 premature deaths each year – about 150 of those in Ealing. Many more suffer from long term diseases, such as chronic asthma which affects over half a million Londoners.

“So what can we do? There’s no magic bullet that will make our air instantly clean, but there are steps we can take.

“A lot of the pollution comes from the exhaust fumes of cars. The Acton end of Ealing Borough – the part east of Hanger Lane and Gunnersbury Avenue – is already in the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which discourages the dirtiest vehicles from entering. They pay a charge if they do, which by law, can only be spent on improving transport.

“In August 2023 the ULEZ will expand to cover all outer London boroughs, bringing the rest of Ealing under the same protection. It’s not perfect and it’s hard for people who have to change their car. But it will lower pollution – and if that saves you or your loved ones from a serious lung disease, it’s priceless.

The Mayor is giving £110 million in scrappage grants to Londoners on low incomes, charities, and small businesses whose vehicles would have to pay the
charge. Find out more about the ULEZ and scrappage scheme on the TfL ULEZ website.

“There are other things you can do too.

“Top of the list: don’t install solid-fuel fires such as log or coal burners. Yes, they have a cosy village cottage image – but we live in a city of 9 million, not a village. The terrible killer smogs of the 1950s were caused by the thousands of coal fires that heated homes back then. Getting rid of them was the best thing we did. Wood smoke might smell more homely but it’s just as full of toxic carcinogens. And in any case, wood stoves are becoming such a serious source of pollution, that there is likely to be pressure to ban them – so if you buy one you might find that the only thing that has gone up in smoke is your money.

“Back with travel, some of the air pollution road traffic causes is dust from the tyres and brakes. Even electric vehicles pollute in that way. So as much as you can:
“• Walk or cycle – they are the cleanest and healthiest ways to travel. We need to make it easier and safer, as it is in Holland and Denmark. Take a look at the cycling facilities the Dutch enjoy.
“• Use public transport. – trains in London are mostly electric, and increasingly buses will be.

“There are other good health reasons to avoid driving, not just lowering air pollution. The UK is suffering an epidemic of obesity and doctors are urging us to take exercise. Even just the walk to the bus stop, or up and down the steps at the railway station, will contribute to health, and unlike a gym treadmill, it’s free, it’s useful, and it easily becomes routine.

“Lastly, if you do drive, try to avoid idling your engine when stationary for long periods. It reduces pollution, and your fuel bill too. There are often signs telling you to do this, some even with fines, but drivers find it hard to remember.

“Protecting Londoners’ health and especially our children, really does have to come first. That’s why Friends of the Earth supports the expansion of ULEZ and we hope others will too. For further information see our website and the UK Friends of the Earth’s Air Pollution overview.

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