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Islington Council hosts air-mazing activities to make us care for the air we share

Cllr Claudia Webbe plays an air quality-themed game with Grafton Primary School pupil in Islington Green

Cllr Claudia Webbe plays an air quality-themed game with Grafton Primary School pupil in Islington Green

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Schoolchildren tested the health of their lungs as part of an educational day for all on the fight for better air quality.

Islington Council was one of the only London boroughs to mark World Car Free Day last Thursday, holding a special educational event on Islington Green for school pupils, cycle commuters and anyone else keen to learn more about sustainable transport and the effect of air pollution.

The aim was to raise awareness that we all need to pull together and change our behaviour to improve the quality of the air around us.

Schoolchildren were a particular focus for the event, encouraging and reinforcing a shift in attitudes around car use in the next generation of potential drivers, by illustrating the benefits of sustainable transport like cycling and the health effects of noxious pollution, much of which comes from petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member for environment and transport, said: "We seized upon World Car Free Day as the perfect opportunity to start changing attitudes and making people care for the air we share.

"To trigger this it is essential to get the children and young people of our borough to understand the importance of clean air, the health benefits of sustainable transport and the effect of pollution on their health.

"Educational activities like these are a central part of our efforts to improve air quality, alongside initiatives such as our anti-idling policy.

"We can only tackle air pollution successfully if we all work together. But we are not going to stand by and wait for the motor industry and governments to act – this is about people's quality of life now and for years to come."

Pupils from three Islington primary schools, situated by some of the borough's most polluted roads, took part in an action-packed session that included testing their own lung function on specialised devices in a ‘clean air bubble’, all provided by the European Respiratory Society and the European Lung Foundation as part of their Healthy Lungs For Life campaign, encouraging people to 'breathe clean air'.

The devices allow people to see how their lung performance measures up, prompting them to think about the effect of pollution and the importance of keeping their lungs as healthy as possible.

It was the first time the campaign had hosted a testing event geared specifically to school pupils, who also got to learn more about sustainable transport from a short film in a pop-up cinema powered by their own cycling, played air-quality-themed games and took part in 'get to know your bike' sessions among other activities.

The same test was also offered to the public, aimed at cyclists heading to and from work and interested passers-by, in addition to drop-in sessions with Dr Bike mechanics, a police bike security marking service, and information on sustainable travel and personal exposure to air pollution by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

The success of working with local schoolchildren, the European Lung Foundation and Sustrans will inform future initiatives to tackle air pollution in Islington.

Dan Smyth, chair of the European Lung Foundation, said: “The Healthy Lungs for Life campaign aims to educate the public about the importance of breathing clean air for long-term lung health.

“We were delighted to support Islington’s Car Free Day activities by giving people in the area the chance to have a free lung function test to assess the current health of their lungs and to provide information on air quality and how to ensure that their lungs stay as healthy as possible.”

Ben Addy, communities and innovation manager for Sustrans, said: “Car-Free Day is a chance for everyone to rethink how we travel. Walking and cycling are great ways to get around London in a relatively short period of time. And they’re inexpensive, good for your health, good for the environment, and easy on your wallet.

“We’re fortunate that investment is now being made in building new cycle routes across the capital, so it’s a great time to try out some new ways to get to work, school or friends, or just potter about under your own steam and enjoy our wonderful city.”

For more information contact:

Stephen Moore
Senior Media Officer
020 7527 3224

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Cllr Claudia Webbe with a Grafton Primary School pupil testing their lung function

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A Grafton Primary School pupil tests his lung function at the Car-Free Day event in Islington Green

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