Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan wrote a book on his personal struggle with poor air quality. Reuters

On Thursday, May 25, Sadiq Khan's first book "Breathe: Tackling the Climate Emergency" will be out in the world. The book chronicles his long battle against the air quality of London which caused some health issues like asthma and a possible heart attack.

Since the pandemic, the Mayor of London has become more active in his climate activist role. In the November of 2021, a possible minor heart attack caused some fears of derailing the Mayor of London's political duties. He was due to attend the Cop 26 summit when the heart attack happened.

How does the book help?

The book underlines the personal struggle of a person living in a polluted city. During the Cop 26 event in Glasgow, Khan felt some chest pain issues and had to retire from the session without speaking. Barely conscious and drenched in sweat he was taken away from the venue, reveals the politician in his new book.

After getting some fresh air and eating some chocolate canapés he felt better. Thankfully he didn't need to be hospitalised and was in walking condition, the new book reveals. The Mayor took some medical tests which revealed that it might have been a minor heart attack.

The 52-year-old revealed how his wife and doctor were scared and he only took the test because he was reminded of the incident that happened to the Labour leader John Smith.

Smith died of a heart attack in a similar incident in 1994 when the attack happened to him early in the morning, a day after giving a speech at a fundraising event.

The symptoms, the profession and the age - all made Sadiq Khan worry about his health and hence he took a series of tests which revealed unusual heart activity as indicated by doubled troponin levels in his blood. His ECG and X-ray results were fine.

Prior to that, the Mayor was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 43 and in the book he chronicles his decade-long battle with asthma in the deteriorating air quality in London. The Mayor became aware of the air pollution issue after he started coughing in his regular jogging activities in Tooting.

Earlier he had the experience of running for the 2014 London Marathon and trained and played football regularly. So, this development after the marathon was an indication of his health going downhill which ultimately resulted in him not speaking properly on radio interviews in the run-up to the election in 2015.

What made him write this book?

Running for a third term in 2024, Khan shows no signs of slowing down despite his health although he is more cautious about his health now and also spends more time improving the air quality of London. In February 2022, he spoke for better air quality, saying it is a social justice issue, where the lowest-ranked people in society are at the receiving end.

He was speaking at the Royal College Of Physicians at that time along with Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. Debrah's nine-year-old daughter has been a victim of poor air quality as she passed away from pollution-linked asthma in 2013. She was the first known victim of air quality-related death.

Sadiq Khan has been inspired by the little girl's story which made him write this book. The nine-year-old was a resident of Lewisham in South-East London.

Why this is important?

The Mayor says he still has difficulty breathing in polluted environments and has to use his asthma pump two times a day along with his tablets. He also remembered how in school two of his friends who had asthma couldn't play any sports.

More than himself, the Mayor is worried about the future generation like his daughters who are in their 20s and his nieces and nephews who could be adversely affected by the pollution in Tooting where he and his extended family still lives. Khan's 82-year-old mother is also suffering from asthma.

Members of my family could get dementia, heart disease or cancer directly attributable to the poor-quality air. So, of course, there's a self-interest in relation to the impact on me, my family and friends.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor, London

Khan made it clear that the problem isn't restricted to cities alone as even in the countryside the air is unclean.

99% of the world is breathing in toxic air.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor, London

He speaks for more cycle lanes, Tfl setbacks and Ultra Low Emission Zone in the book, charting out ways of environmental action in detail. Khan has highlighted in his book how the air quality was better during the pandemic because of fewer cars and he didn't need to use the asthma pump.