A new report by Public Health England (PHE) has said that cars should be banned from idling near schools in a bid to cut pollution.

The body says that air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK and is calling for a raft of measures to be introduced which could help improve air quality and prevent premature deaths linked to pollution. Between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths are attributed to long-term exposure to pollution each year.

The call to stop drivers leaving their vehicle’s engine running outside of schools when picking up and dropping off their children also extends to hospitals.

Other proposals PHE is pushing forward include promoting pool car lanes, as well as offering priority parking for electric cars. It also wants to see more ambitious targets set to increase the number of electric vehicle charging points, which will help to increase the uptake of EVs.

Further emissions-based road charges and zones, such as London’s Congestion Charge, would also like to be seen by the government public health agency to help improve air quality.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director of PHE, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we were having a conversation about 30,000 people dying each year because of a polluted water supply, I think we would have a very different conversation.

“Technologies are available, which are things that we need to do we know about, so this is a matter of how we take this issue as seriously as we need to, and how we move the technologies and the planning and all of that into reality so we actually deal with this problem for us and for future generations.”

Evidence also shows that air pollution can cause strokes, respiratory diseases and lung cancer, as well as making existing conditions, such as asthma, worse.

Councils have had the power to fine drivers for leaving their engines idling since 2002, although a freedom of information request by The Telegraph found the power is rarely used, with just 59 motorists being fined for it since 2002.

Ted Welford


March 12, 2019