Ban Building Near Air Pollution Hotspots, Say MPs
A new report by MPs calls for a ban on building schools, hospitals and care homes near sites which generate dangerously high levels of air pollution.
The Environmental Audit Committee report, Action on Air Quality, warns that young people face lung damage caused by nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a by-product of motor engines. It also warns that there is robust evidence that toxins in the air lead to infant death.
Figures from 2010 reveal air pollution contributed to the deaths of 29,000 people in the UK, 25,000 of those were in England.
One solution in the report is mitigation. It states that over 1,000 schools are less than 150 metres away from major roads and should be fitted with air filtration systems.
Frankly anyone currently living in areas of high pollution, such as near Heathrow, will know that such measures are feeble. Parents are expected to encourage their children to be active, with lots of outdoor exercise and even cycling and walking to school. Air filtration systems in school building only cover the time children are inside the building. Heathrow is promoting the use of Adobe huts in playgrounds so that children can go outside at school but these only dampen noise. They have open apertures for doors and windows so are useless against dangerous air pollution.
Surely a better way to tackle the problem is at source. Incentivise cleaner modes of transport and stop expanding polluting industries – like airports, which generate a huge amount of road traffic.
This report suggests creating more low emission zones and for Vehicle Excise Duty to take into account NO2 as well as carbon levels. This is because drivers have been encouraged to buy diesel vehicles as these produce less carbon (to meet climate change targets) but the increase the levels of NO2 in the air. Most companies with vehicles will simply pay the extra charges and add the cost to their charges to customers.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Joan Walley said: “It is unacceptable that another generation of young people growing up in our towns and cities could have their health seriously impaired by illegal air pollution before the Government brings this public health crisis under control.
“Children growing up near busy roads with high NO2 and particle emissions have stunted and impaired lung development.
“There is also emerging evidence that air pollution can increase infant mortality rates, prompt pre-term births and affect cognitive performance.”
The committee criticised the Government for failing to act on past recommendations. SHE wonders if the Government cares about air pollution in our capital when it is prepared to consider airport expansion despite the fact that 7.2% of deaths in London are already related to poor air quality.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Exposure to certain air pollutants can have a devastating impact on people with heart conditions, increasing their risk of a heart attack.
“Yet the UK continues to flout legal air pollution limits.”
In the Heathrow area as long as 50 years ago, schools were moved away from the busy Bath Road (A4) because of noise and pollution. The latest plans for expansion will bring the boundary of the airport and new bigger roads close to those schools again.
If it is not right to build new schools and care homes near to high pollution sites, it cannot be right to build new roads and industry close to schools, care homes and health facilities.