World’s first diesel air pollution ward appears on the Southbank calling for London to phase out diesel by 2030

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Posted 10 months ago

Today the world’s first diesel pollution ward appeared on London’s Southbank, drawing attention to the devasting impact of air pollution on children’s health.

London’s diesel pollution ward for children featured 10 hospital beds – each representing 280 of the 2,800+ children and young people that were admitted to hospital with asthma in London in 2021/22.[1] Overall, the health impacts of air pollution cost the NHS an estimated £20 billion every year.[2]

Mums for Lungs campaigners (from left) Ruth Fitzharris, Jane Dutton, Claire McDonald and Jemima Hartshorn as London’s Diesel Pollution Ward for Children is revealed on the Southbank to highlight the effects of air pollution on children’s health. Photo credit: Simon Jacobs/PinPep

Diesel vehicles are among the biggest contributors to this air pollution, accounting for 40% of the city’s toxic NOx emissions.[3] Illegal levels of harmful pollutant Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have been found across Greater London, including Lambeth, Westminster, Ealing, Brent and Kingston-Upon-Thames.[4]

The stunt was revealed by a group of campaigners, fronted by Mums for Lungs with support from the Clean Cities Campaign, who are calling for commitments from all levels of government to phase out diesel vehicles in London by 2030.

Jemima Hartshorn, Founder of Mums for Lungs, says:

“It’s unacceptable that children growing up in London today are breathing in illegal levels of air pollution. More and more children are being admitted to hospital with severe cases of asthma and being subjected to life-long health conditions. We need to clean up our roads to protect future generations from these conditions, and we have to start with phasing out diesel vehicles.”

London’s Diesel Pollution Ward for Children is revealed on the Southbank to highlight the effects of air pollution on children’s health. Photo credit: Simon Jacobs/PinPep

Oliver Lord, Head of UK and Campaigns, Clean Cities Campaign, comments:

“Our drive for diesel has led to a generation of kids breathing illegally polluted air, stunting their lungs and causing lifelong illnesses.  Despite this, and it being several years since the dieselgate scandal that shocked the world, there are still more than half a million polluting diesel cars in the capital.

“We’re calling on all layers of government to make policies and initiatives that help individuals and businesses to ditch diesel for good, whilst enabling a transition to more sustainable forms of transport. Our vision is for every Londoner to be free from breathing dirty diesel fumes by the end of this decade.

Dr Anna Moore, a respiratory doctor working in the NHS, adds:

“The link between air pollution and respiratory conditions is well established, but many people don’t know that it has also been shown to affect every organ in the body. Research has connected air pollution to heart conditions, various cancers, babies’ development, dementia and even our mental health. Cleaning up our air – starting with heavily polluting diesel cars – will be a crucial step to freeing up hospital beds in the NHS and improving Londoners’ health.”  

London’s Diesel Pollution Ward for Children is revealed on the Southbank to highlight the effects of air pollution on children’s health. Photo credit: Simon Jacobs/PinPep

The unveiling of the new ward also aligns to today’s publication of the London Health Streets Coalition’s Healthy Street Scorecard, an annual ranking of London’s boroughs that celebrates their efforts to reduce car use and enable active travel. The Scorecard found Camden to have the lowest proportion of diesel cars (15%), with Hillingdon performing worst for both its share of diesel cars (27%) and cars registered per 100 households (109). 

For more information please contact:

DieselCampaign@grayling.com


[1] Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (2021/22 – 2022/23)

[2] Royal College of Physicians

[3] London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (LAEI) (2019)

[4] Analysis by Ricardo for Clean Cities Campaign (2023)