The findings in your article (Hundreds of thousands of children being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles, 4 April) are scandalous. We are storing up huge unknowns in terms of the future of our children’s lung health. We need urgent action. The government must bring in a fair and ambitious Clean Air Act with targets to ensure pollution levels are monitored around every school and nursery located close to busy roads, arming parents and teachers with the information they need to take action to protect children’s health. Traffic emissions are the main culprit, but we know people bought their old diesel cars in good faith. A targeted scrappage incentive scheme would be a positive step, which could persuade drivers to switch quickly to cleaner vehicles. The Guardian and Greenpeace’s investigation shows our children’s lung health demands action now.
Dr Penny Woods
Chief executive, British Lung Foundation
• Your article highlights diesel fumes in London.In Hampstead, north-west London, pleas to Camden council to take account of the EU air quality directive and limit developments with massive lorry movements have not been heard. The council accepts that if it complied with the directive it will have to stop developments, and it is just not going to do that. Some 12,500 children go to schools in Hampstead every day, many under the age of seven. Development after development is approved by Camden and government planning inspectors right next to schools where children are exposed to lorry diesel fumes. One such development will see 2,000 lorry movements.
Cycle superhighway 11 will shut five out of 10 lanes on the main north-south corridor used by 40,000 vehicles a day. Transport for London confirmed that traffic will fan out into our narrow residential streets causing congestion and pollution, with up to an extra 475 vehicles an hour on one of our roads which has two primary schools with kids aged from two. Parliament passed laws to enable HS2 to pollute our area with 800 lorry movements a day. The continuing assault on air quality by local councils and government authorities shows that they pay only lip service to improving our air quality.
• Schools should be especially concerned as air pollution has been shown to cause a range of adverse effects including obesity, asthma, infant mortality, low birthweight babies, and depressed IQ.
All schools keep a record of asthma inhalers brought to school and over two decades ago, the late Dr Dick van Steenis proposed that “every county conduct a survey of primary schools to ascertain the proportion of children taking inhalers to school, and that any area with high proportions be investigated locally. This would be quick, cheap and effective.” (Airborne pollutants and acute health effects, The Lancet, 8 April 1995).
As far as I know, no council bothered to do so. Perhaps this will change now that Sadiq Khan is mayor of London and an asthma sufferer who’s determined to tackle air pollution, but who seems to have overlooked the impact of incinerator emissions. Will Khan publish the percentages of children in Years 3 to 6 in each London school who bring in asthma inhalers?
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