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‘Invisible killer’: Schools, hospitals should be built away from pollution hotspots – MPs

‘Invisible killer’: Schools, hospitals should be built away from pollution hotspots – MPs
Schools, hospitals and public buildings should be built away from main roads to protect young children and the sick from deadly pollution, British politicians have urged.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee recommends schools are fitted with special air filters to block dangerous toxic chemicals emitted from diesel engines and other such machines.

“Air pollution is an invisible killer and a public health imperative,” the committee said.

“It is unacceptable that a whole generation of people … could have their health seriously impaired by air pollution above EU limits before government brings this public health problem under control.”

In the committee’s latest report, called “Action on Air Quality,” the MPs also recommended other public buildings, including hospitals and care homes, be built away from areas with high levels of pollution.

“Urgent change is needed in transport and planning policy to save lives and ensure that the UK meets European safety targets much sooner than the expected dates indicated by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,” the report states.

Reuters / Darren Staples

According to the Office of National Statistics, around 29,000 people die each year from exposure to toxic chemicals in the air, although the government says a further 30,000 deaths could be added if levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in the air was accounted for.

The shocking data could mean the number of people dying from such airborne chemicals could match those succumbing to the deadly effects of smoking, according to the committee’s chair, Joan Walley.

“Children growing up near busy roads with high NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particle emissions have stunted and impaired lung development,” she warned.

“Over 1,000 schools are only 150 meters away from major roads. Protecting children and vulnerable people in the worst affected areas must be made a priority.”

She also recommended the government provide more tax incentives to renewable forms of energy, while curbing the use of diesel vehicles, which produce 22 times as many toxic particulate as their petrol counterparts.

“Air pollution is a public health crisis that kills tens of thousands of people each year and yet this Tory-led government has done nothing to tackle the problem,” Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Barry Gardiner told the Guardian.

The report comes weeks after an EU court ruled that Britain needed to “urgently” clean up illegal pollution levels in its cities, in a case that could see heavy goods vehicles and diesel cars significantly restricted in city centers.