A mother who avoids busy roads because of her asthmatic son says the city desperately needs ULEZ expansion to tackle its air pollution problem.

Ruth, a north Londoner and executive assistant for environmental campaign group Mums for Lungs, says her six-year-old’s asthma can be often worsened by dirty air, that she has to plan journeys around his health condition.

Signs of her son's asthma first cropped up amid a heatwave in 2018, when he had seven attacks.

Then during the record hot temperatures in the summer of 2022, dangerously high ozone levels contributed to further attacks.

Ham & High: Ruth (right) with her six-year-old son (left)Ruth (right) with her six-year-old son (left) (Image: Handout)

Ruth said: “I grew up in London. Every time you go on holiday you come back and realise how bad it is when you can smell the difference.

“It’s kind of tricky sometimes to work out what causes an asthma attack, but the thing with air pollution is that in some cases it will cause an attack, but in every case it will exacerbate an attack.

“If you’re breathing high levels of air pollution, which everyone does in London, then the attack is going to be more severe.”

As a result she goes out of her way to avoid busy main streets when taking the bus.

She explained: “You could be sat next to a bus stop of idling traffic for 10 minutes and you would have breathed in significant amount of air pollution.

“I don’t think it’s wrapping people up in cotton wool. The evidence is there.”

Ruth joined Mums for Lungs after taking an interest in the effects of pollution and telling her story.

Ham & High: A stock image of a ULEZ sign, as a mother says that London desperately needs its expansion A stock image of a ULEZ sign, as a mother says that London desperately needs its expansion (Image: PA)

Part of the group's agenda to push for clean air has been promoting the positive contributions of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheme and pushing for its expansion across Greater London.

She said: “If you don’t have a health condition, children’s lungs are going to be stunted by air pollution. So with the levels that we breathe in London, their lungs could be stunted by up to 14 per cent compared to bringing up your child somewhere with clean air.”


One common argument against the expansion is that people say they cannot afford to scrap their cars for a ULEZ-compliant vehicle – and Ruth says those with financial concerns should not be pitted against those with public health worries.

She said "We need good scrappage schemes and government funding. We need really good regular public transport systems that people can rely on and exemptions when it's necessary.

“The health conditions that come from this cost the NHS a huge amount of money. And also there’s huge costs to families if people are sick.”

She insists children’s health should be treated as a “priority” and action “desperately” has to be taken to clean up the air, adding that the Government should do all it can to support those in the transition to a cleaner capital.

Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation analysis found that poor air quality was responsible for triggering asthma attacks in around 337,500 Londoners.