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Sadiq Khan to more than double size of London’s clean air zone

New mayor of London calls air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and plans to bring the increased ultra low emission zone into force early

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/13/sadiq-khan-to-double-size-londons-clean-air-zone-pollution

The new mayor of London Sadiq Khan has made his first major policy announcement, unveiling plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) – which could also now come into force earlier than planned – will require drivers of the 2.5m oldest and dirtiest vehicles to pay a charge. Owners of cars that fail to meet the standards will pay a £12.50 charge, separate to the congestion charge.

The scheme is intended to act as an incentive to drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative transport to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles.

Under Khan’s plans, which will now be subject to a public consultation, the ULEZ will stretch from the north to south circular roads in London rather than just the much smaller congestion charge zone in central London as currently planned. Officials said the area covered will more than double in size.

Khan said his predecessor, Boris Johnson, had been too slow to act and had left the city a “laughing stock” internationally, and the government had been “hopelessly inactive” on the issue. Officials said the ULEZ, under a consultation to be published within weeks, could now come into force as soon as 2019 rather than the original plan of 2020.

“I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean up London’s air – our biggest environmental challenge,” Khan said at a school in east London. He said London had only acted on pollution in the past after emergencies, such as the Great Smogs of the1950s: “But I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge.”

The mayor’s office also said an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles would be brought in from 2017, which would be administered by the congestion charge system but be separate to the congestion charge. It is not yet clear what that charge will be.

Khan chatted with pupils and sowed seeds with them at a rooftop garden of a primary school in Aldgate, which is situated on a busy road packed with cars and buses. Sir John Cass’s Foundation is equipped with its own pollution sensors as well as one from the wider London Air Quality Network, decorated with a design created by schoolchildren.

“For me it can’t be right that this school on three occasions last year has to make the call whether to allow children to play in the playground breathing in this dangerous stuff or play indoors,” Khan told the Guardian.

He said the issue was very personal to him because of his asthma, but also as a father of two daughters, and as someone with nephews and nieces. “At the age of 45 I’ve been diagnosed with asthma. All the experts say that one out of three people who have asthma could be because of air quality.”

Khan said that under eight years of Boris Johnson the city’s reputation had gone from: “being one of the world-leading cities [in terms of air pollution], according to people around the world, to being at best mediocre.” He added the city had gone from having an earlier reputation for leadership on climate change and air quality but was now “a laughing stock around the world.”

A study by King’s College London last year found that nearly 9,500 people in the capital die early because of air pollution. Earlier this year it took parts of London just one week to breach annual limits, and a major global study by the World Health Organisation on Thursday found the city breached its guideline limits for two harmful types of particulate pollution.

Alan Andrews of ClientEarth, which has sued the government over the illegal pollution levels in London and other cites, said the mayor’s plan was a “hugely positive announcement”.

“We will have to wait and see if the detail of the mayor’s proposals matches his ambition. With air pollution causing over 9,000 deaths a year in London it is vital that all options to solve this problem are on the table. It will be crucial that the ULEZ ensures vehicles meet the most stringent emission standards when driving on London’s roads, not just in discredited laboratory tests,” he said.

“Today’s announcement, coming so early in the new mayor’s term, should send a clear message to the UK government that ambitious and bold action is needed. The government must now up its game so that the whole country can breathe cleaner air.”

Caroline Russell, Green party London Assembly member, said: “While I warmly welcome the mayor’s intention to expand the ULEZ to the north and south circular, it’s essential that all outer London boroughs should also have the ability to opt in right from the beginning.”

But Friends of the Earth said that while it welcomed such a swift plan and expanded ULEZ, Khan was sending mixed messages by clearing an obstacle to City Airport’s expansion earlier this week. “It is confusing that this announcement comes in the same week that Sadiq Khan has removed a key hurdle in the expansion of City Airport which will only add to London’s dirty air woes,” said its campaigner, Sophie Neuburg.

UK air pollution is a public health emergency

According to a cross-party committee of Members of Parliament, air pollution in the UK is a “public health emergency” – the government’s own data shows air pollution causes 40,000–50,000 early deaths a year. The MPs’ heavily critical report says more action is required to tackle the crisis, such as giving dozens of cities that currently suffer illegal levels of air pollution stronger powers to deter polluting vehicles through charges.

The MPs’ report also says farmers must step up action to cut pollution. Ammonia emissions from farms contribute to the formation of tiny particles, one of the main causes of premature deaths and other health impacts.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer at ClientEarth, which defeated the government in the supreme court in 2015, said: “We’ve been telling the government it needs to act on air pollution for five years. Due to our legal case, the government was ordered to act. Now, almost a year on, a cross-party group of MPs has told the government it must get a grip.

It seems there is near-unanimous agreement on the need for urgent action from everyone other than the ministers responsible for dealing with our toxic air.”

Source: The Guardian, 27 April 2016

The report: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-ruralaffairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/air-quality-report-published-15-16/

Current exposure to pollution has greater health impact than former exposure, study shows

http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i807?etoc=&sso=

The health risks of exposure to pollution follow a similar pattern to those from exposure to tobacco smoke, a study has found. It also noted a marked acute rise in risk from living in a polluted area, which then tails off if someone moves to a place with cleaner air.1

The study, published in Thorax, also said that, while overall pollution levels seemed to be dropping in the United Kingdom, the pollution itself seemed to be more toxic now.

Researchers from Imperial College London used historical pollution monitoring data on black smoke and sulphur dioxide taken in 1971, 1981, and 1991, as well as PM10 levels (fine particulates of ≤10 micrometers in diameter) taken in 2001, to estimate the level of exposure of 367 658 people at those four specific times, according to where they were living at the time. The participants were members of the Longitudinal Study, a 1% sample of the England census, which enabled the researchers to track the participants’ health outcomes over time.

Pollution that people were exposed to in 1971 still affected their health 38 years later, the results showed. Every additional unit of 10 µg/m3 pollution that someone was exposed to in 1971 increased their mortality risk by 2% between 2002 and 2009.

However, more recent exposure had a far more marked impact on health: for every additional unit of 10 µg/m3 pollution that someone was exposed to in 2001, it increased their risk of mortality by 24% between 2002 and 2009.

Anna Hansell, lead author and assistant director of the Small Area Health Statistics Unit of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, said that the link between pollution and health followed a similar pattern to the effect of smoking.

“What we think is happening is that there is some waning over time with the effect size,” she said. “You can make some analogy with smoking. Smoking has an acute effect and it has a long term effect.

“We know if you smoke it increases your risk long term, but if you give up smoking there’s a benefit, which for heart disease is probably strongest over a couple of years, and then you have the longer term effects which appear over time.”

Hansell speculated that some tailing off of the effect might also be due to some people, who were more susceptible to the health effects of pollution, having died. Furthermore, the particulates in pollution had changed over the course of the study, she said, and it was likely that each unit of 10 µg/m3 pollution today is more deadly than in 1971.

“We can’t time travel back to the 1970s and look at the particles then, in the same way as the particles now, but we know we have a very complicated mix now,” said Hansell.

John Gulliver, senior lecturer at the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, said, “Levels of types of air pollution in the UK have reduced dramatically since the start of our study period, with levels of black smoke currently estimated to be around 20% of what they were in the 1970s.” As a result, in 1971 a 52 µg/m3 difference in black smoke levels was recorded between the most and least polluted areas, whereas in 2001 the difference in PM10 was just 6 µg/m3.

The source of pollution has also changed, Gulliver added. In 1971 it came predominantly from coal burning in homes and by industry and so was greatest in industrial areas, whereas transport is now the main source of pollution. And, surprisingly, only about half of this is from exhaust emissions.

“Brake and tyre wear and road abrasion increasingly make up a larger and larger proportion of particles from road transport—it is almost 50% now,” he said. “And it is set to increase because the focus is on exhaust emissions, not on tyres, brakes, and road abrasion.”

Levels of this type of pollutant are influenced by road surface, speed, and the weight of the vehicle, Gulliver said, such that heavier vehicles such as sport utility vehicles have the greatest impact.

Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution

World Health Organisation describes new data as ‘health emergency’, with rising concern likely to influence decision over Heathrow expansion

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/16/world-heslth-organisation-figures-deadly-pollution-levels-world-biggest-cities

The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe.

Before the release next month of figures that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments.

The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

The toxic haze blanketing cities could be clearly seen last week from the international space station. Last week it was also revealed that several streets in London had exceeded their annual limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions just a few days into 2016.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.

Last week David Cameron, whose government has been accused of dragging its feet over air pollution and is facing legal challenges over alleged inaction, conceded in the Commons that the growing problem of air pollution in urban areas of the UK has implications for major policy decisions such as whether to expand Heathrow airport.

Asked by Tory MP Tania Mathias to pledge that he would never allow Heathrow to expand while nitrogen dioxide levels are risking the health of millions, Cameron said she was right to raise the matter, which was now “directly being taken on by the government”. Last December, after warnings from the Commons environmental audit committee and others, Cameron put off a decision on Heathrow expansion for at least another six months.

Government sources say Cameron and other ministers are now taking the air pollution issue far more seriously. In 2014 the prime minister was widely criticised for describing it as “a naturally occurring weather phenomenon”.

According to the UN, there are now 3.3 million premature deaths every year from air pollution, about three-quarters of which are from strokes and heart attacks. With nearly 1.4 million deaths a year, China has the most air pollution fatalities, followed by India with 645,000 and Pakistan with 110,000.

In Britain, where latest figures suggest that around 29,000 people a year die prematurely from particulate pollution and thousands more from long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide gas, emitted largely by diesel engines, the government is being taken to court over its intention to delay addressing pollution for at least 10 years.

The NGO ClientEarth, which last year forced ministers to come up with fresh plans to tackle illegal nitrogen dioxide levels in British cities, said that it would seek urgent court action because the proposed solutions would take so long to implement and produce cleaner environments. Under the latest government plan, announced before Christmas, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) promised clean air zones for five cities by 2020 in addition to one already planned for London. But this will mean it will years before cities such as Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh feel the benefits.

Frank Kelly, director of the environmental health research group at King’s College London, and an adviser to several governments on the health risks of pollution, told the Observer that air pollution had become a “global plague”.

“It affects everyone, above all people in cities. As the world becomes more urbanised, it is becoming worse.”

Sotiris Vardoulakis, head of Public Health England’s environmental change department, said: “It’s the leading environmental health risk factor in the UK, responsible for 5% of all adult mortality. If we take action to reduce it, it will have multiple health co-benefits like lower greenhouse gas emissions and healthier cities. Air pollution has an impact on NHS spending, but we have not quantified it.”

A new report from the EU’s European Environment Agency (EEA) says pollution is now also the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, responsible for more than 430,000 premature deaths. “It shortens people’s lifespan and contributes to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity,” said the EEA director Hans Bruyninckx.

Leading economist Lord Stern said air pollution was an important factor in climate change. “Air pollution is of fundamental importance. We are only just learning about the scale of the toxicity of coal and diesel. We know that in China, 4,000 people a day die of air pollution. In India it is far worse. This is a deep, deep problem,” he said.

The latest scientific research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that air pollution now kills more people a year than malaria and HIV combined, and in many countries accounts for roughly 10 times more deaths than road accidents.

According to the WHO, air quality is deteriorating around the world to the point where only one in eight people live in cities that meet recommended air pollution levels.

On Monday the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, will give evidence in a trial of 13 climate change activists who occupied a Heathrow runway in July, delaying or cancelling flights. The Labour MP, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency includes Heathrow airport, has been a prominent opponent of the airport’s expansion and has strongly backed local residents who are resisting a third runway. At a rally in October he said: “In my constituency at the moment, people are literally dying. They’re dying because the air has already been poisoned by the aviation industry.”

Cancer is not just ‘bad luck’ but down to environment, study suggests

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35111449

Cancer is overwhelmingly a result of environmental factors and not largely down to bad luck, a study suggests.

Earlier this year, researchers sparked a debate after suggesting two-thirds of cancer types were down to luck rather than factors such as smoking.

The new study, in the journal Nature, used four approaches to conclude only 10-30% of cancers were down to the way the body naturally functions or “luck”.

Experts said the analysis was “pretty convincing”.

Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control.

That can be caused either by intrinsic factors that are part of the innate way the body operates, such as the mutations that occur every time a cell divides, or extrinsic factors such as smoking, UV radiation and many others that have not been identified.

The argument has been about the relative importance of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The team of doctors from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York approached the problem from different angles, including computer modelling, population data and genetic approaches.

They said the results consistently suggested 70-90% of the risk was due to extrinsic factors.

Dr Yusuf Hannun, the director of Stony Brook, told the BBC News website: “External factors play a big role, and people cannot hide behind bad luck.

“They can’t smoke and say it’s bad luck if they have cancer.

“It is like a revolver, intrinsic risk is one bullet.

“And if playing Russian roulette, then maybe one in six will get cancer – that’s the intrinsic bad luck.

“Now, what a smoker does is add two or three more bullets to that revolver. And now, they pull the trigger.

“There is still an element of luck as not every smoker gets cancer, but they have stacked the odds against them.

“From a public health point of view, we want to remove as many bullets as possible from the chamber.”

There is still an issue as not all of the extrinsic risk has been identified and not all of it may be avoidable.

‘Convincing’

Kevin McConway, a professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: “They do provide pretty convincing evidence that external factors play a major role in many cancers, including some of the most common.

“Even if someone is exposed to important external risk factors, of course it isn’t certain that they will develop a cancer – chance is always involved.

“But this study demonstrates again that we have to look well beyond pure chance and luck to understand and protect against cancers.”

Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease.”

Biomethane from Organic Wastes Could Quadruple by 2021

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MPs advise against Heathrow expansion until conditions met

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/12/01/uk-britain-heathrow-arpt-expansion-idUKKBN0TK3F420151201

The British government should not give final approval to the expansion of London’s Heathrow [FGPTOW.UL] airport until it shows it accepts and will comply with environmental conditions, a parliamentary committee said in a report.

Members of parliament on the Environmental Audit Committee said Heathrow must show it can reconcile expansion with a commitment to introduce a ban on night flights, a legal commitment on air quality and demonstrate that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than a two-runway Heathrow.

“The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic, it would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well,” committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies said in a statement.

A government-appointed Airports Commission named Heathrow as the preferred site for London airport expansion in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will decide by the end of the year whether a new 23 billion-pound ($35 billion) runway should be built there.

Heathrow said the committee was right to look at the environmental impact of expansion but said its plan would make Heathrow quieter and served by improved public transport links which would help improve air quality.

The airport has been campaigning for years to be allowed to add a third runway because it is operating at full capacity but it faces opposition from some prominent politicians, local residents in west London and environmental groups.

Activists opposed to the expansion of Heathrow blocked an approach tunnel last week, bringing traffic chaos to Europe’s busiest airport.

The final decision on expansion poses problems for Cameron who pledged to voters before an election in 2010 that he would not allow a third runway, “no ifs, no buts”. His party’s candidate for next May’s London Mayoral election is also opposed to expansion of Heathrow.

Gatwick airport, Heathrow’s rival to the south of the capital, said the parliamentary committee’s report brought into question the basis for the Airport Commission’s recommendation.

“The Committee questions the entire legal basis of the Airports Commission report on air quality and highlights the many other environmental hurdles facing Heathrow expansion,” said Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate.

“It is increasingly clear only expansion at Gatwick is legal and can actually happen.”

Heathrow’s largest shareholder is Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial (FER.MC). Other partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

(Reporting By Aurindom Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Michael Holden in London; Editing by Stephen Addison)

Heathrow Airport expansion: Environmental conditions ‘must be met’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34971277

The government should not support the building of a third runway at Heathrow until a number of environmental conditions can be met, MPs have said.

The Airports Commission published a report backing a third runway in July.

But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report said firm plans to deal with climate-changing emissions, air quality and noise need to be put in place.

A final government decision is expected by the end of the year.

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies, chairman of the committee, said it would be “irresponsible” to postpone dealing with the environmental impact of expansion at Heathrow.

He warned that to do so “could lead to legal challenges as a result of the potential damage to public health from increased air pollution and noise”.

“If the government decides to accept the commission’s recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the secretary of state for transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval,” he added.

BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed said senior sources at the company that runs Heathrow have told him the “mood music” around the decision to expand is in favour of the third runway being approved.

The cross-party committee said legal air pollution limits would have to be reached if the west London airport expands and also called for a ban on night flights to ease noise.

The MPs said the airport had to show that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than it is with two runways. Their report also called for Heathrow to say it would cover the costs of surface transport improvements.

The Airports Commission has already called for flights between 23:30 and 06:00 to be banned.

Heathrow currently has said it wants a “review” of the issue and has not made any pledges over night flights. The airport has also said it plans to ensure more people arrive by public transport to keep emissions down.

‘Policy vacuum’

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic.

“It would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well.”

A strategy to deliver aviation emissions at no higher than 2005 levels by 2050 should be put in place by the government, the committee’s report recommended.

It also called for a Community Engagement Board to be set up to increase trust between local residents and the government.

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “Planes are becoming more fuel efficient, but this alone will not keep aviation emissions in line with the government’s climate change targets given the growth in passenger numbers.

“Even without expansion, aviation is on track to exceed its climate change target. We heard evidence that those targets might be met in theory, but at present there is a policy vacuum and evidence-based scepticism as to whether they can be met in practice.”

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye told the committee earlier this month that the airport could comfortably expand to include a third runway and still stay within environmental targets.

At the time, he said the issue of night flights was one that Heathrow was looking at and would comment on “in due course”.

The issue of Heathrow’s expansion has been a long-running and contentious issue.

In 2009, while in opposition, David Cameron ruled out Heathrow expansion, saying “no ifs, no buts”.

The Airport Commission’s recommendation in July was criticised by competing airport Gatwick, and by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has argued for a whole new airport.

Environmentalists and residents who live near the flight path of the proposed third runway have also campaigned against it.

Ed Miliband urges UK to enshrine zero carbon emissions target in law

http://www.edie.net/news/6/Ed-Miliband-urges-UK-to-enshrine-zero-carbon-emissions-target-in-law/29372/

Ed Miliband has called on the UK to become the first country in the world to enshrine in law a target of reducing carbon emissions to zero.

The former Labour leader and energy secretary said Britain should show leadership and send a clear signal to businesses by building on its existing target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 under the Climate Change Act.

The intervention, in a comment article for the Guardian, comes a week before world leaders including David Cameron and Barack Obama meet for a landmark climate change summit in Paris. Nearly 200 countries are due to attend the negotiations to thrash out a deal for emissions cuts beyond 2020 and financing for poorer countries to cope with global warming.

“When we did the Climate Change Act [in 2008] it did send a message around the world, and then people did follow. It was Britain saying we’re going to do these big reductions and put it in law. I think there is the prospect of that happening again,” Miliband said.

The Labour MP said he did not want to put a date on when the zero emissions target should be achieved, because that decision should be taken by the government’s statutory advisers. To avoid dangerous global warming, the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change has said emissions must be cut to near zero by the end of the century.

Nicholas Stern, the economist commissioned by the then chancellor Gordon Brown to assess the costs of inaction on climate change, said he supported a target of reducing emissions to zero but would not go so far as to say it should be written into law.

Sir David King, the foreign secretary’s special representative on climate change, said Miliband’s call was important and timely. “It stresses the importance of maintaining all-party political agreement on the commitments of the UK to act on climate change. This has already created the certainty on investments in the new low carbon sector that means this is now the fastest growing sector in the British economy, now employing over 450,000 people in Britain.”

Miliband said the UK’s emissions cuts needed to go from 80% to 100% because it would be required eventually, and would send an important signal to businesses. “We now know we will get to the point where the carbon budget is exhausted. It just makes logical sense for the backstop to be zero, not simply 80%. The 80% target is fine but in the end we are going to have to get to zero, and we might as well start to look at the questions of when and how.”

This summer the government’s statutory climate advisers warned that the UK’s existing carbon budgets could be missed. The group’s chairman John Gummer took the unusual step of singling out Conservative policy changes such as scrapping a target for all new homes to be zero carbon.

But Miliband said he was not interested in political point-scoring in his call for a zero emissions target, which he said was backed by Tory, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Green party MPs.

“I’m not in the business of trying to have a go at the government. Paris is too important. I genuinely hope they will look upon this as a sensible cross-party initiative which they can support,” he said.

French authorities have said the Paris summit will still go ahead despite the recent terror attacks, although authorities have forbidden a planned march that was expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people. Miliband, who attended the last major climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, said he was hopeful of a “decent” deal at Paris.

“The stakes are high … it’s very, very important that Paris is a success. By a success, I mean serious commitments from the major emitters, which we have. But crucially with this so-called ratchet mechanism for the ambition to be greater.”

Countries representing nearly 90% of emissions have put forward their climate pledges before the summit, but a UN analysis found they would still lead to temperature rises of 2.7-3C – more than the 2C limit to which leaders have agreed. The EU, China and the US, among others, have called for a five-yearly review mechanism to ratchet up those pledges to meet 2C. “It’s very important we embed that in the agreement,” Miliband said.

He admitted that while the Copenhagen summit had been a setback in some senses, it had also laid some of the groundwork – such as a promise of $100bn a year in climate aid for poorer countries – for any deal agreed in Paris. The Paris conference opens on 30 November and runs until 11 December.

Air pollution stunting children’s lungs, study finds

A six-year study finds children living in highly polluted parts of cities have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than normal, with warnings the damage could be permanent

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/laura-donnelly/11953613/Air-pollution-stunting-childrens-lungs-study-finds.html

High levels of air pollution are stunting the growth of children’s lungs, a major study has found.

Eight and nine-year-olds living in cities with high levels of fumes from diesel cars have up to 10 per cent les lung capacity than normal, the research suggests.

Over six years, researchers examined the lung function of 2,400 children at 25 schools across east London, and found a direct correlation between air pollutant exposure and reduced lung growth.

Such children have an increased risk of disease such as asthma and bronchitis and, and the prospect of a permanent reduction in lung capacity.

The tests checked the volume of air each child could breathe, as well as levels of inflammation in their lungs, with urine tests to check for heavy metals, which are produced by vehicles.

Overall, those living in areas with high levels of particulates and nitrogen dioxide had up to 10 per cent reduced lung capacity the study led by Prof Chris Griffiths, principal investigator at the Medical Research Council and Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma.

“The data shows that traffic pollution stops children’s lungs growing properly,” Ian Mudway, a respiratory toxicologist at King’s College London told the Sunday Times.

“The evidence suggests that by 8-9 years old, children from the most polluted areas have 5 to 10 per cent less lung capacity and they may never get that back.”

The study was designed to assess the impact of London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which since 2008 has discouraged larger diesel vehicles such as lorries from entering the capital.

The research found the measure had made no difference.

“It is very disappointing that the LEZ, which was specifically designed as a major public health intervention, has so far brought about no change,” said Prof Griffiths.

“This raises questions over the government’s current consultation on air quality, which is based around the idea of creating similar low emission zones in up to 30 other polluted urban areas. There appears to be no evidence that these low emission zones can reduce pollution or improve health.”

Other studies have shown diesel pollutants causing lung inflammation, researchers said, with tests showing black carbon from diesel exhaust emissions inside children’s lung cells.

Earlier this year research suggested that air pollution could increase the risk of brain damage and small strokes which are linked to dementia.

Environmental groups say diesel cars could be phased out as part of Government efforts to address pollution.