Having woken up this morning, coughing and spluttering with a runny nose, taken a look outside at 7am to see the haze already there on the horizon, I was reminded of this piece I read in the Yellow Advertiser back in May: Stanford-le-Hope is officially the most polluted town in the UK, a new report reveals.

Environmental concerns aren’t just the preserve of comfortably off middle class people with a social conscience. Out here alongside the A13, just up the road from an increasingly busy London Gateway superport and facing the prospect of a motorway leading to a new Thames crossing within the next decade, concern about environmental issues such as air pollution is literally a matter of life or a premature death.

Stanford-le-Hope made the list of one of the 10 worst polluted places in the UK after breaching the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for toxic PM10 particles in the air. Inhalation of these particles aggravates asthma and has been linked to cardiovascular illnesses and lung cancer. This comes three years after the WHO declared Thurrock the most polluted place in Britain for PM2.5 particles, which travel deep into our respiratory tracts. Scientific studies have shown long-term exposure to PM2.5s can reduce lung function, increase rates of chronic bronchitis, cause emphysema in non smokers, and increase death rates in patients with lung cancer and heart disease. Figures published in 2014 attributed 6.5 per cent of adult deaths in Thurrock to PM2.5 exposure. Government has since stopped publishing Thurrock’s pollution death rates.

The attitude seems to be so long as the profits pile up for the big corporations, air pollution levels will be tolerated. Those of us living in places like Stanford-le-Hope breathing this crap in every day are seen as collateral damage. Ultimately, we’re expendable so long as the figure on the bottom line keeps getting bigger. Some of our local politicians are making noises about the severity of the air pollution situation – the thing is, they’re just noises. The problem won’t be resolved until the unsustainable economic system we have that tolerates air pollution as a side consequence of the pursuit of growth is not only questioned but replaced with something more just and sustainable. Somehow, we can’t see anyone in the political establishment at the local or national level being prepared to do that.

The levels of air pollution we suffer here in Thurrock are as much a class issue as housing, crap pay and working conditions, the impact of never ending austerity on the services we rely upon and the rest of the crap we have to endure. It’s our health and ultimately, our lives that are at stake here. Which is why the Heckler will be on the case with this issue…

Dave (the editor)