Air pollution 'causing deadly public health crisis'

Air pollution
Highlights

The Environmental Audit Committee argues air pollution is a \"public health crisis\" causing nearly as many deaths as smoking. It also suggested a scrappage scheme for diesel cars like in UK to be introduced to cut emissions.

New schools, care homes and hospitals should be built far away from major roads because of the dangers of air pollution, a report says.

The Environmental Audit Committee argues air pollution is a "public health crisis" causing nearly as many deaths as smoking. It also suggested a scrappage scheme for diesel cars like in UK to be introduced to cut emissions.

Nitrogen dioxide is known to cause inflammation of the airways, reduce lung function and exacerbate asthma.

Particulate matter - tiny invisible specks of mineral dust, carbon and other chemicals - are linked to heart and lung diseases as well as cancer.

Some particulate matter lodges in the lungs, while the finest particles can enter the bloodstream, risking damage elsewhere in the body.

Joan Walley, the committee chairwoman, told "There is a public health crisis in terms of poor air quality.

"There are nearly as many deaths now caused by air pollution as there are from smoking, so the main thing is we stop a new generation of children being exposed."

She said government "should make it impossible" for new schools, care home or health clinics to be built in pollution hotspots.

She added that "well over a thousand" schools were already near major roads and that it "made sound economic sense" to filter the air coming into the buildings.

The committee's report says traffic is responsible for 42 per cent of carbon monoxide, 46 per cent of nitrogen oxides and 26 per cent of particulate matter pollution.

"Our dirty air will simply not clean itself, and this issue is one that will," said Dr Penny Woods, the charity's chief executive.

Asthma UK said air pollution increased the risk of a life-threatening attack and "urgent and concerted action" was needed to bring pollution levels down.

Chief executive Kay Boycott said, "In the short term some of the measures recommended in this report, such as the publicising of high air pollution forecasts, could help people with asthma know in advance if they should seek advice from their GP or asthma nurse."

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