Environmentalists warning on air quality

MPs report on air pollution “a wake-up call.”

An environmental pressure group have described a new report by MPs on air pollution as a wake-up call. The report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee was published earlier this week, documenting what the committee chair is describing as a public health crisis.

The report recommends that all new schools and hospitals should be built well away from roads, to provide some protection to the most vulnerable. It also recommends the introduction of many more low emission zones; a big programme of investment in improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists; and measures to discourage diesel vehicles and promote less polluting alternatives.

Air pollution contributes to at least 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, 520 in Birmingham alone, according to Public Health England. Government advisors last week said that the national figure could be as high as 60,000.

Birmingham is also one of 16 cities over legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide for which the UK Government was found to be taking insufficient action to tackle air pollution. Julien Pritchard, spokesperson for Birmingham Friends of the Earth, said “This report is a real wake up call for Government to get serious on the issue of air pollution and tackle this public health crisis. The illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution are a local and national scandal which politicians have not taken seriously.

“With traffic the main cause of our appalling air quality, Governments and local authorities need to be building fewer not more roads, as well as investing in sustainable transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.

“More also needs to be done locally. Birmingham City Council must make serious investment in sustainable transport, particularly walking and cycling. This is why we called on the City Council to commit to investing at least £10 per person per year in walking and cycling for at least 10 years. A call supported by over 20 organisations across the city. We also need a conurbation wide Low Emission Zone with the revenue ring-fenced for investment in sustainable transport.”