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Mothers and families to demand climate action in London march

The Mothers Rise Up rally comes after ministers announce an in-depth review of air pollution.

Ella Kissi-Debrah, whose death was linked to unlawful levels of air pollution.
Ella Kissi-Debrah, whose death was linked to unlawful levels of air pollution.

Thousands of mothers, fathers, grandparents and families with babies and children are expected to take to the streets to demand urgent action on climate change.

TV presenter Konnie Huq, comedian Shappi Khorsandi and lawyer and activist Farhana Yamin will address crowds at the Mothers Rise Up march in central London on Sunday.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Saturday that he has commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to carry out a review of the impact of dirty air on the nation’s health.

The march, which is being held on International Mother’s Day, will be led by 11 11-year-olds to represent the 11-year window to act on the climate emergency.

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Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, mother of Ella who suffered a fatal asthma attack believed to be linked to air pollution (Sam Tobin/PA Images).

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella suffered a fatal asthma attack believed to be linked to air pollution, will also address crowds at the rally.

She said: “I’m a mum from Lewisham fighting to get justice for my daughter Ella.

“Business as usual – toxic pollution in our streets and our schools – is fuelling a crisis that is making our kids sick and it is families in the deprived areas that are paying the heaviest price.

“We need to urgently change course. We need to do everything necessary to clean up our air and create a safer future for all our children.”

We need to do everything necessary to clean up our air and create a safer future for all our children. Rosamund Kissi-Debrah

Similar marches will be taking place across the country and internationally, including Cyprus, the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic and Australia.

Mr Hancock branded dirty air the “largest environmental risk to public health in the UK” and warned of the growing national health emergency triggered by the “slow and deadly poison” of air pollution.

He added: “We cannot underestimate the very real impact that dirty air – this slow and deadly poison – is having on our lives, our health and our NHS.

“This review will help us map out how much disease is caused by dirty air and what steps we are taking to prevent this – something which is at the heart of our work to help people live longer, healthier lives through the NHS Long Term Plan.”

PHE last year estimated that there will be more than 2.4 million new cases of disease attributable air pollution by 2035, with coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and child asthma all having a strong association with air pollution.

The new review will include updated estimates of the number of new cases of disease that could be caused by dirty air by 2035, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

It will also provide up-to-date modelling to identify how many cases of disease the Clean Air Strategy could prevent and where more attention could be placed, it added.

The British Lung Foundation welcomed the announcement and said without an expansion of air pollution monitoring, the Clean Air Strategy was like “throwing a dart blindfolded and hoping to hit the bull’s eye”.

Chief executive Dr Penny Woods added: “Detailed local information on the effects of toxic air will better allow people to make informed decisions on how best to protect their own health.

“Clear, street-by-street health information would allow people to reduce their exposure to harmful air – by avoiding the most polluted areas or go out at times when the air is cleanest.

“It would also allow councils, with the support of Government, to take more targeted and effective measure to clean up their own communities.”

The Clean Air Strategy, launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in January, set a long-term target to reduce people’s exposure to particulate matter, as well as a commitment to halve the number of people living in areas breaching WHO guidelines on particulate matter by 2025.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said: “Air pollution is an urgent and serious threat to the public’s health which needs a range of interventions to tackle effectively.

“This commission will help us to calculate how much the Clean Air Strategy will improve health and whether more is needed to tackle this major public health problem.”

The department said the review will support the commitment made in the NHS long-term plan to “go green”, including more virtual appointments and fewer outpatient appointments to cut the need for patients and staff to travel.

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