Teenage campaign group ‘Choked Up’ installed the signs in Whitechapel, Brixton and Catford yesterday and called for the Mayor of London to install more cycle and walking paths.
They read: “pollution zone: breathing kills” and “people of colour are more likely to live in an area with illegal levels of air pollution” in different languages.
‘Choked Up’ was started by young people from ethnic minority backgrounds in South London following the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham.
The nine-year-old was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death after she suffered a fatal asthma attack.
Co-founder of Choked Up, Anjali Raman-Middleton, 17, said: “The landmark ruling of the Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah inquest proved that the road I live less than five minutes from can kill.
“I am terrified that my daily commute to school along the South Circular has already had a negative impact on my lungs. I urge London mayoral candidates to commit to transform these roads to give me and my generation a greener future.”
The signs coincide with new research released today by Environmental Defense Fund Europe which showed dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution produced by traffic is up to 31 percent higher in areas where people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds are most likely to live.
The most deprived areas of London are six times more likely to have higher pollution levels than richer streets, the study found.
The signs have been placed on the capital’s Red Routes network, which was established 30 years ago to improve traffic flow across the city.
The major roads account for around 5 percent of London’s roads but carry up to a third of traffic.
Campaigners are calling on the Mayor to transform the routes by installing more walking and cycling paths, as well as affordable zero-emission public transport.
Oliver Lord, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Environmental Defense Fund Europe, said: “Like the Covid-19 pandemic, air pollution is disproportionately impacting marginalised communities.
“It’s clear London’s busy roads are a root cause of health inequities and air pollution levels are a major contributor.
“For years, the major Red Routes have been a toxic thread running through our communities, polluting the doorsteps of homes and kids’ playgrounds.
“We need a green recovery that undoes decades of damage, using a clear traffic reduction plan – one where polluting trucks can no longer cut across the city and parking for cars becomes parks for people.
“As we approach the mayoral elections we are asking candidates to commit to transform the Red Routes road network, putting people’s health and our climate first.”