PAUL LUSHION, our environment correspondent, on some very worrying scientific findings about air quality in Croydon – before the Beddington incinerator even begins full operation
According to the Evening Standard, “Croydon has been named the worst borough in London for asthma, as it was revealed that poorer areas have far higher hospital admission rates for asthma than richer ones.”
Citing research conducted by the charity Asthma UK, the Standard report said residents of Croydon were more likely than those anywhere else in the capital to require emergency admission to hospital during an attack.
According to the NHS statistics, in Croydon, “there were 720 A&E admissions due to asthma in 2016-2017, which equates to 188 for every 100,000 residents.”
The Standard’s report also said that Croydon “also had the third highest figure in London for the number of deaths with asthma as an underlying cause — 64 over the period 2007 to 2016”.
This statistic, based on evidence accumulated over a decade, rather than a one-year snapshot, helps to demonstrate that air quality in Croydon has been a long-term environmental disaster, and not just something that has happened recently.
Croydon’s poor air quality has long been attributed to the high volume of vehicle traffic on the major roads, such as the A23 which bisects the borough from north to south, and the area around the town centre, the A232, the Croydon Flyover and Fiveways, where the east-west route meets the Purley Way.
The local authority’s response to the high traffic volumes and the borough’s poor air quality?
Croydon Council has granted planning permission to Westfield and Hammerson to build a massive shopping mall in the town centre, including car parking for 3,000 vehicles. Schools have been built alongside the busiest stretches of dual carriageway where the buildings are hermetically sealed from the noxious exhaust fumes outside.
While some councillors stage public meetings to wring their hands in concern over the perils of poor air quality, the council leader recently welcomed an announcement from Gatwick Airport that it is to build a second runway.
And from next month, an industrial-scale waste incinerator will fire up on the borough boundary on Beddington Lane, for which Croydon Council will be paying £10million per year to operate, while some residents will no doubt be paying with their health.
In 2016, this website, together with Friends of the Earth, conducted an air quality test on a residential road close to the town centre and found particulate matter at nearly twice the levels allowed under EU law.
Croydon Council officials and elected representatives ought to be particularly worried by the borough’s poor air quality when next door, Bromley, had the lowest asthma hospital admission rates across London — 71 per 100,000 residents, and 35 deaths over the same decade.
Asthma UK is publishing a report today showing that where people live can have a direct bearing on their likelihood of being hospitalised or dying from asthma.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research at Asthma UK, told the Standard: “It is truly shocking that people in deprived areas are not only struggling to make ends meet but if they have asthma, they are more likely to end up in hospital or die from an asthma attack.
“We should all have an equal right to breathe. Tackling health inequalities is meant to be a priority for NHS England and this report should be a wake-up call for policymakers.”
Peter Underwood, from Croydon Friends of the Earth, pictured right, said, “Croydon Council is going in the wrong direction. It is sending our waste to be burnt in the Beddington incinerator, which will spew fumes over Croydon for years to come. It is allowing the Westfield development to build a huge car park, encouraging even more traffic into central Croydon. And Tony Newman has recently said that he welcomes more flights at Gatwick airport, pouring out even more climate damaging pollution over our town.
“If we want to solve this problem then we need to take serious and drastic action, not just tinker around the edges.
“We need Croydon Council to stop dragging us in the wrong direction and set out real plans that will make a genuine difference to the quality of air we breathe. Our lives may depend on it.”
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