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Reduction in traffic pollution during Covid-19 lockdown prompts Blue Hearts campaign

Campaigners want to highlight the link between air pollution and public health

15 April, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Co-founder of Islington Clean Air Parents Lucy Facer

CLEAN air activists have launched a campaign to draw attention the reduction in air pollution in the borough as the coronavirus lockdown keeps traffic off the streets.

Islington Clean Air Parents’ (ICAP) are encouraging people to decorate blue paper hearts and display them in their windows to raise awareness of why clean air is so important.

The ‘I Love Clean Air Blue Hearts’ campaign aims to highlight the borough’s history of poor air quality and heavy pollution, which campaigners say puts borough residents at a higher risk of catching the virus.

“This is a very strange and unsettling time for everyone but also one for deep reflection and appreciation,” said an ICAP spokeswoman.

“Covid-19 has revealed many things, including how vitally important, and exposed, our health service is. The pandemic has also highlighted that people living in areas of high air pollution, such as Islington, are at a much higher risk of suffering from the virus.”

They added: “The ‘I love Clean Air Blue Hearts’ campaign is inviting you and your neighbours to display blue hearts in your windows.

Decorated Blue Hearts in an Islington window

“This is signifying that we all, our invaluable key workers, our vulnerable, our children, need clean air now, for our health, for our health service and for our communities, so that we can build a brighter, cleaner future for everyone.”

ICAP is calling on the council to make changes to improve the borough’s air quality when the lockdown is over.

The Town Hall has set a target of becoming a net zero carbon borough by 2030.

An online consultation is currently taking place on its Vision2030 plan, which has replaced a series of workshops and public meetings cancelled since the coronavirus outbreak.

An online pubic consultation on the council’s Biodiversity Action Plan for 2020 to 2025 is also open.

Environment chief Rowena Champion said: “We are facing a climate and ecological emergency, and these two important blueprints reflect our commitment to taking the necessary action to tackle climate change in our borough.

“In light of the severe pressure on the council caused by the grave public health situation, social distancing and the restrictions on movement, we have had to alter our original plans for a series of public and partner engagement sessions around the Vision 2030 document.

“We are aware of the urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies that we are facing, and we have devised an alternative plan so that we can hear the views of our residents and local organisations.

“In due course, once the public health situation becomes clearer, we will reassess what steps we can take to help residents engage further and to set an end date for the consultation.”

ICAP co-founder Helena Farstead said it was important to recognise the benefits of clean air in the borough as a public health priority, especially in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

“It is clear that communities that have people living in highly polluted areas are more at risk of suffering from Covid-19,” said Ms Farstead.

“The fact that the air is cleaner since the lockdown is helping those with respiratory diseases, and it’s helping the people who are contracting the virus too.

“When the pandemic has passed it’s reasonable to assume those who have suffered from Covid-19 could be left with respiratory conditions, and having a cleaner air environment will help, as well as further protecting people should the pandemic return.”

The consultations for Vision2030 and Biodiversity Action plan can be accessed below:

Templates for ICAP’s blue hearts can be downloaded from:

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