‘I don’t want to live like this’

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‘I don’t want to live like this’

Journalists from the northeast of England write about the effects of air pollution on their lives.



Newcastle upon Tyne is the northeast UK’s big city. It is one of the places where the UK government wants to reduce air pollution ‘in the shortest possible time’. The city’s air pollution results in over 200 early deaths a year. The city has mostly taken action on the nitrogen-dioxide pollution from road traffic. But not everyone agrees on what to do about traffic-related pollution, or that there is a need for action on air quality at all. The city now has many active campaign groups. They have formed a Clean Air Coalition.


A letter to a very thin baby

Eleanor Holden lives in Newcastle. She had her first child in 2014, when she was living in Switzerland. Eleanor wrote this letter to her young son and thought about how air pollution may have played a part in his small birth weight.

Dear Very Thin Baby,

Of course, you are no longer a thin baby. Calling you a thin baby would make you smile and laugh.

Now your school uniform makes you seem small and grown up at the same time! You have a lot of energy, you are very confident, and you have a fierce temper. ‘Did you smoke?’ asked the midwife. I didn’t smoke, and so she didn’t understand your low weight. I thought about it a lot. I know I will never be sure. No one investigated it and I was too tired to ask for it.

But now I think about the thick black dust on the balconies and it often came through the windows of our apartment block next to the main road. You like the idea that the particles in your body now might have been part of a dinosaur, a volcano, a comet. But what part did this dust from brakes and exhausts, play when you were inside me? I am thankful that you were quick to grow and do well, but I still worry about the effects on us of air pollution.

We talked about it on the way home from school the other day, as we walked past the cars at the traffic lights. You told me that it is smelly bad air and the bad air goes in your lungs and makes you sick. I said that this makes me worried. You thought I was mad. ‘I am never worried!’ you said. But I decide to do something about it.

With all my love,


A voice from the roadside

Jocelyn Dawson is an asthma sufferer She lives near Salters Bridge, by a busy residential road, in Gosforth, Newcastle.

The road starts up in the early hours of the morning. I suffer from asthma and I can’t go out at busy times. I’m just coughing and coughing. It’s not right that you can’t be comfortable in your own house.

We have to live with this every day and it worries me so much that I think it’s time to leave. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to live like this.



(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)