Reducing air pollution to improve children’s futures
Guest blog from Graham McQueen, Manager of the Paths for All Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme
Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in Scotland are an important step towards reducing the number of journeys being made by high polluting vehicles in our city centres. The zones that have been introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow are important contributing elements to how we deal with the climate crisis and make our communities more pleasant environments, while improving people’s health.
As Scotland’s national walking charity, we at Paths for All encourage and support people to walk more. Walking and wheeling (for those who are unable to walk) are for everyone, everywhere, every day. Walking keeps us active, it’s good for our physical and mental health and it gets us to places we want to go in an environmentally friendly way.
Good habits are formed while people are young, which is why Paths for All do a lot of work to encourage and support young people from all walks of life to choose to walk more both for leisure and for their daily journeys back and forward to school.
For young people living in Scotland’s city centres, the problem of too many vehicles and too much pollution from those vehicles is especially dangerous. Up to one in five people in Scotland will develop some sort of lung condition during their lifetime, and these conditions can be life-threatening. The more fumes and pollution young people breathe in the higher the likelihood is that they will develop related health issues. More than 70,000 young people in Scotland have asthma, approximately 9% of all people under 15 years of age.
Inactivity and obesity are likewise a real health risk for our young people. 23% of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight, with 10% of those children being at risk of obesity. This cannot continue - we as a country need to support and encourage our young people to get more active through sports, play and through making more active choices in their daily routines.
Healthy habits form young, so we need to ensure we are encouraging and supporting healthy habits in children and young people so they can carry these forward into their adulthood.
Taking high-polluting vehicles off the road is a first step, as it makes our communities and spaces more pleasant and therefore encourages more people to walk.
LEZs set an environmental limit on certain city roads, restricting access for the most polluting vehicles to improve air quality. Removing the most polluting vehicles creates space for walking without breathing in fumes. And supporting these zones in city centres where young people live and go to school allows young people to create healthy habits at an early age.
Paths for All’s Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open Fund can also support projects around this to promote healthier travel with the LEZs in place. There are grants available through the Smarter Choices Smarter Places programme right now of up to £100,000 and should anyone be interested in finding out more then they can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Any schools or community groups who are looking to deliver a project around promotion of healthy travel or support for healthier travel in Scotland we would be delighted to speak to you to discuss as the responsibility for changing ours and our children’s travel habits.
To find out more about Paths for All, go to pathsforall.org.uk/