Mother calls for action in Greater Manchester as child asthma admissions 65% worse than average

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney.

The mother of a six-year-old boy with breathing difficulties has called for local government to "prioritise" reducing air pollution, warning of an impending 'health emergency'.

Elliot has lived with viral-induced wheezing since he was a baby, which mum Alba De Toro Nozal, believes is being made worse by pollution in south Manchester where they live.

The condition swells the airways to the lungs when its been affected by a cold virus.

Alba says Elliot would be taken to hospital regularly to be put on a nebuliser when he was struggling to breathe.

"He couldn't finish a sentence, he would wakeup in the night coughing," Alba said.

"I couldn't manage it at home, just with an inhaler, he would need to be admitted and go on a nebuliser which was a really, really difficult and stressing time."

She added: "I had to call the an ambulance a couple times because I didn't know what to do and how to help, I'd given him an inhaler and it didn't make a difference."

Alba believes air pollution should be taken more seriously in Greater Manchester. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Although Elliot's condition has improved over time, it has not completely gone away, and for a period of time, Elliot would be rushed to hospital for treatment once a month.

Alba believes his condition has not been helped by the levels of air pollution he has been exposed to in their local area of Didsbury.

She said: "We have friends who are paediatricians and they say that every winter there are so many children being admitted to hospital with the same condition as Elliot has.

"The pollution in Manchester definitely contributed to Elliot's condition. Being exposed to all the car fumes all the time when we were walking about from when he was baby, I think it made it worse.

"If we lived in an area where the air was cleaner, I think he wouldn't have suffered this much."

Alba is one of several members of the group Mums for Lungs who campaign for cleaner air across Greater Manchester.

It comes as figures show the North West has the highest proportion of children being hospitalised with asthma anywhere in England.

Those under 19 finding themselves in hospital with the condition is 65% worse than the average, Public Health England says, with almost 4,000 children admitted between 2022 and 2023.

Tameside, Oldham and Manchester city centre have some the highest rates of asthma hospital admissions for children under 19.

Alba is now calling for local government to prioritise the issue of air pollution across the region.

She said: "It the end of the day it's our kids who are growing up in these conditions.

"We don't know how much it's affecting them, we only know what happens day to day but the more they can do to reduce that pollution the better for them."

Alba has been taking Elliot to the hospital to treat his respiratory condition since he was a baby. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

The Mums for Lungs cause is supported by a local GP, Dr Sinead Millwood, she says it could "definitely" be the case Elliot's condition has been made worse by pollution.

"Air pollution has been shown to be associated with children's respiratory infections like viral-induced wheeze as well as the development of asthma and lots of other infections including Covid-19 and pneumonia.

"But it also affects everybody, not just children."

The number of children hospitalised with lung difficulties has nearly doubled in the past two years across Greater Manchester, according to Mums for Lungs.

Paediatric respiratory admissions has also risen by 97%, jumping from 684 in 2021 to 1,345 in 2023.

The campaign group believe a plan should be in place to manage levels of pollution, reaching targets made by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Liz Godfrey, organiser of Manchester Mums for Lungs, said: “This is a health emergency and it is devastating to see that more children than ever are admitted to hospital with respiratory illnesses.

"Pollution levels across Greater Manchester contribute to stunted lung growth and asthma. We urge Andy Burnham and the Government to come together and sort out Manchester’s air pollution - so everyone can breathe more easily!”

A Clean Air Zone for Greater Manchester was supposed to come into place in May 2022, but it has now been delayed.

Air pollution has been a hot topic of debate in the city region over the past couple of years.

In 2022 there had been plans to introduce a clean air zone which would have seen drivers of certain vehicles charged to use the roads.

But after a huge public backlash, those plans were placed on hold.

Greater Manchester's Mayor, Andy Burnham, insists reducing harmful emissions to within the legal target by 2026 is still a priority, but rather than charging drivers entering a zone, he is now put forward proposals to central government for an investment led plan - which would include more electric buses, taxi upgrades and traffic measures.

In a statement he said: "The Bee Network is accelerating the introduction of zero emission and cleaner buses with many more due to enter service later in March.

"We are getting closer to achieving our goal of a low-fare, high-quality public transport system making it possible for people to leave the car at home.

"This is all part of our investment-led approach and, alongside other measures, it will enable us to achieve clean air compliance but in a much fairer way.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...