THE level of air pollution on our streets is shameful; we need to be talking about air pollution as a national health emergency.

The roads in our city are not safe, and not just because of the hazards of dangerous driving.

Another mortal threat is air pollution.

Our city is gripped by an air quality crisis.

Up and down the country, people are dying from the toxic air on our streets; this is a national health emergency.

Just last week, the Guardian reported that in Bristol, five people die each week from causes related to air pollution. Toxic air also contributes to significant health conditions like asthma, lung cancer, stroke and diabetes and has been linked to other illnesses such as dementia.

And this week, it has come to light that the impact of air pollution on our health may be far worse than previously thought. Findings published in the British Medical Journal suggest that dirty air heightens the chances of developing a range of conditions, from heart failure to urinary tract infection. This chimes with another study earlier this year that revealed that almost every cell in the body may be affected by dirty air.

The European Union has set out legal limits on the amount of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) allowed in our air. They have set the limit at 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre (µg/m3) stipulating that anything above this constitutes a health risk.

Brighton, like much of Britain, is still not compliant with these limits. This is simply not good enough, and while we remain complacent, people are getting sick and dying.

There are 67 air monitoring sites in Brighton and Hove, and in 2018 (the latest reported data), over half of them (36 sites) recorded illegal levels of air pollution. Indeed, at 22 of the 67 monitoring sites, pollution levels actually increased from previous years.

Living in this city that I love, I genuinely worry for the health of my little boy. I’m outraged that our children are growing up in these conditions.

And the effects of this toxic air doesn’t hit all in our society equally. Those who suffer the consequences of air pollution the most are often those who contribute to the problem the least. Just look at North Street, where the highest levels of air pollution in the city are reported, ranking in the top 10 worst in the country, outside of London. Pollution in this area averages more than double the legally permitted limits annually, at 90.8µg/m3.

Considering the monthly records, the polluted picture only gets worse; in July 2018, recorded NO2 peaked at 119.3µg/m3. This is a figure four times higher than the legal limit: Action is desperately needed to make our air safe to breathe.

North Street sits on the boundary between two wards; on the north side, 66 per cent of households don’t have access to a car. On the south side, even fewer people use cars; with 72 per cent of households living car-free.

On face value, it’s great that so many residents in the city are living without a car in Brighton; but whilst those living in the North Road area are subject to sometimes quadruple the legal air pollution limits, this inequality cannot go unrecognised. These residents are by far the worst affected by the area’s deathly air pollution, and yet they are also the people least responsible for this issue. This is deeply problematic.

Similarly, London Road is also in the top three sites for exceeded levels, and here 70 per cent of residents do not have access to a car. It isn’t fair that those bearing the brunt of this burden are contributing to it the least.

We need to call this out for what it is; an equalities issue.

It doesn’t have to be like this, people should not have to endure the repercussions of this toxic air that almost three quarters of them didn’t have a hand in creating.

In addition, some parts of the city aren’t even being monitored, many of them being deprived areas, so there may be more cases in which air pollution exceeds the legal limits that we don’t know about because the data simply isn’t being captured.

This Government has shown apathy time and again in the face of this emergency. They have dragged their heels and done the bare minimum when legally mandated to do so. It is time to take things seriously. We need a comprehensive Clean Air Act that facilitates local authorities’ ability to tackle this issue for good. They need guidance, clear signals from the national level and crucially, financial support, to make the necessary changes. It’s a health crisis which is already claiming lives, often of the poorest people, and it needs to be tackled now.

In Bristol, the council has taken decisive steps, they have decided that they simply cannot wait for the Government to get things done, and have banned diesel cars locally. How toxic does our air quality have to get before we follow their lead?

Here in Brighton and Hove, my fellow Green councillors have been working hard on this too, aiming to lower vehicle emissions across the city; pushing for better walking and cycling infrastructure, calling for expansion of clean air zones and demanding an end to vehicle idling. But they need the support of other parties locally, as well as national government.

This air pollution crisis is just one example of how much there is to do to better prioritise the environment and health and wellbeing in our society. Ultimately, what we need is a Green

New Deal. A Green New Deal to make the transition to a cleaner life possible for everyone.

With less polluting transport alternatives at its heart. We need cheaper buses and trains, and better, cleaner infrastructure for them to run on, and for those who can, we need to promote active, non-motorised travel as a cleaner, healthier way of getting from A to B.

The Green New Deal will revolutionise our transport system, ending our dependence on carbon and investing in new alternatives that are better for the climate and for people.

Clean air is not a luxury, it is a fundamental human right, and we must fight to protect it, for everyone.