Plot to go soft on car fumes: 'Do drivers care about my children's health?': Two readers write of their families' plight

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The Independent Online
From Sally Humble-Jackson Cardiff

IN THE past few months my two sons, aged eight and five, have developed asthma. Until recently they were extremely healthy, not even getting coughs when they had bad colds. There is no history of asthma in either my family or that of my husband.

We live on a busy road in a city badly hit by the asthma epidemic. Many children at my sons' school are affected. Of the asthmatic children who come to tea in our house, only one falls into the 'old' category of asthmatics - having had both eczema and asthma from infancy. The rest, like my sons, developed the disease late with no previous indication that this was likely to occur. My sister, a primary school teacher, once asked the asthmatics in a class of 33 nine-year-olds to stand up. Eleven stood.

To my mind, there has never been any question that car pollution is the cause - though the nurse in the asthma clinic murmured 'better diagnosis: house dust mites, smoke, fur and feathers,' as did the GP.

Once asthma was diagnosed, I resolved to limit car use to essential journeys, only to find that the filthy rush-hour air we walked through to school increased the wheezing. We're still walking, though I was told by a road safety officer that it is far safer to drive a child to school than to walk. Maybe, if we reduce car usage, we can kill two birds with one stone]

Twenty years ago, when I lived in America, local radio advised asthmatics not to go out on days when the pollution levels were high. The relationship between car pollution and asthma has long been recognised, but the world has ignored the warning signs. If the inhabitants of Los Angeles cannot be persuaded to use public transport, despite near-permanent smogs, then I do not hold out much hope for change in this country until this new generation of asthmatics comes to govern.

People might go out of their way to buy products designed to save the whale, but I'm fairly sure they'll only go out of their way if they can go in their cars. Saving my children will never be a priority if it means people going to the corner shop on their own two feet for the newspaper. I would back any attempt by your newspaper to bring this matter to the attention of both the public and the Government, and I pray that you will succeed.