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'Our newborns are breathing toxic air': Parents fear for baby's health as parts of Islington breach EU and WHO pollution limits

PUBLISHED: 07:50 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 28 October 2019

Baby Sebastian, with his mother Monica Yan and father Daniel Fiegenschuh. Picture: Supplied

Baby Sebastian, with his mother Monica Yan and father Daniel Fiegenschuh. Picture: Supplied

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The parents of a newborn baby already fear they will struggle to find him a nursery, school or play area without dangerous or even illegal levels of toxic air pollution.

Sebastian Yan Fiegenschuh was delivered on Tuesday last week. He's one of a few thousands of babies who will be born in Islington this year - a borough that, by the council's own admission, "consistently" exceeds European Union limits for harmful Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) emissions.

The government's committee on the medical effects of air pollutants links NO2 to as many as 36,000 deaths in the UK each year.

The council says it's reduced NOx emissions in the borough, and its draft transport strategy includes "phasing out parking permits for diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030."

The council is within legal EU limits for PM2.5 and PM10 particulate matter, for which there is no safe exposure level, but it falls short of World Health Organisation targets.

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Sebastian's mother Monica Yan, a member of Islington Clean Air Parents, said: "We feel uncomfortable opening the windows on a fresh day because of all the particles in the air.

"Even this morning when we took a walk we deliberately chose non-rush hour times. I tried to cover his nose when I heard motorbikes come by."

A study to be published by researchers at King's College London next month has found high pollution days in the capital correlated to 87 extra cardiac arrests annually, 144 more strokes, plus 74 additional children and 33 adults hospitalised with acute asthma.

The chief exec of NHS England, Simon Stevens, says pollution levels pose a "health emergency".

The family live in Barnsbury. Sebastian's father Daniel Fiegenschuh said: "One of the overwhelming feelings you get with a newborn baby is how helpless and dependent they are on you, so that really caused both of us to feel if we don't campaign for him now, for quite a few years to come he won't be able to have his own say in the matter, sadly.

"We live in an area with so much to offer for young family, but if you look at the statistics it one of the boroughs with the worst air pollution in London.

Islington's environment and transport chief Claudia Webbe said: "Cutting transport-related emissions in Islington is at the heart of our transport strategy."

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