Road turned into a rainbow play zone for Clean Air Day


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To mark Clean Air Day, a road outside Great Ormond Street Hospital was closed to traffic and transformed into a rainbow-themed play zone for local children to enjoy. 


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Children celebrate Clean Air Day outside Great Ormond Street Hospital


The temporary ‘play street’, which was closed to traffic yesterday afternoon (20 June), featured a giant rainbow slide and running track, designed by local school children. The slide carried the words ‘Fresh Air Future’ in rainbow lettering, a reference to London’s current levels of toxic air.

Clean Air Day is an event organised by air pollution campaigners The Air Team to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution on people’s health and what can be done to make the air cleaner.

The Air Team is made up of a group of parents across the UK who are worried about the damage air pollution if causing to their children’s health. They are calling for national action to reduce pollution to safe limits.

Research by Queen Mary University last year found that children in London have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than those living outside the capital. 

Other studies have found a link between air pollution and asthma and other respiratory diseases in children.

Play Streets are an initiative in which local residents apply to have their street closed off to traffic on a temporary, but repeating basis. According to The Air Team, there are now over 900 play streets across the UK and 27,000 children are thought to have benefitted from the scheme.

Ben Paul, a member of The Air Team and a local parent, said, ‘London is a wonderful city, but it needs to clean up its act. Our children are breathing dirty air every single day, and this is the first time I’ve felt happy to let my son play outside in his community without the scourge of traffic and pollution.

‘This is a real health crisis and we need to do something about it. Play streets are a fantastic way of reducing air pollution and connecting communities, but we need real action from the Mayor and crucially the Government to get the most polluting vehicles off the roads and give the streets back to the people.’

Alice Ferguson, director of Playing Out, the organisation that started the UK-wide resident-led street play movement, said ‘Over just one generation, children have lost the freedom to simply go outside and play, to the serious detriment of their health and happiness. We’ve allowed cars and traffic to take over our streets, creating a “child-unfriendly”environment, both in terms of road safety and air pollution.

‘It is wonderful that Great Ormond Street Hospital is now organising their own play street for Clean Air Day, creating a vision for what is possible and demonstrating a basic need for all children: the freedom to play out where they live and breathe clean air.'

  • Meanwhile, also to mark Clean Air Day, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that 22 September will be the largest ever vehicle-free day in the capital. The day aims to raise awareness of toxic air. Car-free events will include guided walks and treasure hunts across the City of London and Southwark, to BMX rides, pop-up playgrounds, and a number of street performances and live music events. It is hoped more than 150,000 Londoners will take part.
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