Croydon mum comes up with 29 different ways to avoid busy polluted road near her home

A selfie of Karina Fernandez and her son.
-Credit: (Image: Karina Fernandez)

A Croydon mum has come up with 29 different routes to avoid a busy congested road near her home to avoid exposing her asthmatic son to air pollution. Karina Fernandez and her nine-year-old son both suffer from asthma and live close to busy Portland Road in Croydon, a busy A-road which has a high traffic flow.

“It's noticeably uncomfortable for my sons and I to spend any time walking along Portland Road, so we’ve devised, over the years of living there, 29 much longer ways of getting anywhere we need to go to avoid walking down it because it's terribly polluted,” she said.

Ms Fernandez’ elaborate method of avoiding Portland Road involves travelling down the surrounding backroads to get around the local area. Her son has been hospitalised several times over the years with asthma which she believes has been worsened by high pollution levels.

Read more: New air pollution alert system warns London NHS doctors and healthcare staff when it gets dangerous

portland road
The mum says she and her children avoid Portland Road as much as possible -Credit:Google

“It is deeply, deeply frightening to stand at your child’s hospital bed knowing that everything that they’re trying isn’t seeming to make a difference to anything and having to think out of the box in some cases to bring breathing back to normal,” she said.

“I very often see streams of families walking their children down Portland Road, very little babies in the buggies, toddlers in buggies, vehicle emissions at head height.”

A recent analysis by City Hall found that in every London borough, levels of the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide exceeded the WHO’s guidelines. Across 22 London hospitals, 15,000 children were also admitted with serious breathing-related issues in the year 2023.

“There are many many many families whose children attend the school that my children go to and they actually live on Portland Road and they can’t go 29 other ways to avoid it. That’s where their home is and when they open their windows in the summertime and there is traffic backed up, that pollution is going right into their homes,” she said.

Ms Fernandez is a volunteer with Mums for Lungs, a campaign group which advocates for people’s right to cleaner air. She will often talk to people in stationary cars to explain to them that leaving their engines running contributes to pollution levels.

“Most of the time people respond really well but most people just have absolutely no idea that driving their car and just sitting there, maybe waiting to pick up their child from school, is doing any damage whatsoever. It would be such a dream if we were able to talk about it from a position of everybody working together to create an environment that is healthy and safe for children but also for all of us without it becoming about drivers vs pedestrians," she said.

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