Wednesday 21st June 2017
Car passengers are exposed to 9 times more pollution than cyclists, and children breathe in MORE dirty air because they’re shorter.

Air pollution is becoming an increasingly worrying problem, especially in UK major cities. But how much is it affecting our health?

Rob Hull, The Mail Online, reports:

Motorists are exposed to more pollution than cyclists, or pedestrians, while it's possible to reduce your air pollution by 70 per cent if you change the route you take, a study has warned.

Research commissioned by Global Action Plan (GAP) and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change said passengers in cars breathe in nine times as much pollution than those completing the same journey on a bike or by foot.

Meanwhile, parents are being warned that driving their children to school is exposing them to significantly more harmful levels of pollution than if they were to cycle or walk.

We take a look at the latest research on cars and pollution and explain what it means.

What are the findings on pollution?

A wide-ranging look at pollution has revealed that those in cars are breathing in worse air than those outside them.

Separate studies on behalf of Global Action Plan (GAP) and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change also also found that children are more susceptible to inhaling the nation's dirty air because pollution levels are 11 per cent higher at the height of a child than they are at the height of an adult.

The new information was revealed ahead of the UK's first National Clean Air Day tomorrow - June 15.

The aim of the day is to raise awareness of the dangerous levels of air pollution in the country and to inspire the country to act immediately to reduce it.

A panel of adults said the government and car manufacturers needed to do more to tackle the issue, however 65 per cent were willing to pay out of their own pocket to help reduce pollution levels - an average of £2.59 a month.

One method to urge people to change their ways is to shock them with a raft of new study claims, some of which people will find difficult to comprehend.

This includes the research by King's College London that showed that the amount of pollution inhaled when travelling in a car is significantly higher than if you cycled the exact same route.

After polling 2,000 UK adults, 96 per cent of parents wrongly thought that they and their passengers inhaled less dirty air inside a car than pedestrians and cyclists.

Just under half of those surveyed (43 per cent) believed they are safe from harmful emissions with the car windows closed, though it was found that tiny particles circulating around the inside of cars were just as damaging as those outside.

With 37 per cent of school journeys taken by car, according to the poll, parents are being warned that they are putting their children at a greater risk of heart conditions than if they were to cycle or walk.

Chris Large, Partner, Global Action Plan, said: 'We set up National Clean Air Day precisely because we don’t want Brits to accidentally put themselves in high air pollution situations.

'We may feel safe from the elements inside our cars, but we’re not safe from pollution.

'Leaving the car at home cuts our exposure to pollution, causes less pollution and gives us a chance to get out into the fresh air.'

Even facemasks can do little to improve the quality of air you breathe, the campaign said.

While 47 per cent of those asked believe that facemasks were an effective way to protect them from air pollution, air quality scientists suggest that they have little effect in filtering out the microscopic particles that can have the most damaging impact on the condition of the human heart.

It stated that heart conditions 'cause the majority of premature deaths from outdoor pollution' -  28 per cent are respiratory, while the remaining 72 per cent are seen in the form of strokes and heart disease, the research claimed.

Choose your route carefully

GAP and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change said people could reduce their dirty air consumption by choosing a cleaner route to their destination.

New studies by GAP, Kings College London and Cross River Partnership tested the difference in exposure to pollution when travelling via busy and quiet routes between the same start and end point.

The investigation by GAP found that a busy route journey led to 70 per cent higher exposure to smog than the quiet route.

It also claimed that children are exposed to 11 per cent higher air pollution levels than adults whilst walking on busy roads due to their height - likely due to the fumes emitted from vehicle exhausts being closer to their faces.

In contrast, the Kings College London and Cross River Partnership study found a differential of 50 per cent of pollution exposure between congested and quieter routes.

To help people identify where the most polluted areas are in their city - and then avoid them - the campaign has partnered with the CleanSpace Air Pollution App showing the most toxic areas in major cities including London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

It was confirmed earlier this week that Google Street View cars in the US have now been fitted with sensors to identify the areas that are most polluted.

The air quality project, which kicked off two years ago, has already mapped 14,000 miles measuring the toxicity of each the regions it has been to.

A Google statement said: 'With nearly 3 million measurements and 14,000 miles captured in the course of a year, this is one of the largest air quality datasets ever published, and demonstrates the potential of neighbourhood-level air quality mapping.

'This map makes the invisible, visible, so that we can breathe better and live healthier.

'It helps us understand how clean (or not clean) our air is, so that we can make changes to improve it.'

What action are people willing to take to tackle pollution now?

A large proportion of UK adults surveyed believe that action needs to be taken by the Government (64 per cent) and vehicle manufacturers (57 per cent) to reduce the toxicity of air in major cities.

Action is already underway to tackle the issue in major cities, with London introducing the T-Charge in the most congested regions from October.

There are also plans to enforce Ultra Low Emissions Zones in capital from 2019 along with similar Clean Air Zones in other major cities to restrict the use of older high-emissions vehicles around the same time.

Diesel cars - which are known to produce more harmful nitrogen oxide emissions than petrols - are also being charged extra to park in some locations in a bid to force high-polluting cars away from the area.

And the government is still expected to introduce a diesel-only scrappage scheme and tax surcharges for diesel owners - you can find out more about these proposed changes by reading our guide.

But despite wanting politicians and carmakers to do more, 65 per cent of UK adults on the panel said they would be willing to dip into their own pockets to contribute to a fund ring-fenced to tackle air pollution.

The average amount people were willing to stump up was £2.59 a month, equating to £1 billion per year for the UK population specifically earmarked to combat air pollution, GAP said.

Air pollution needs to be tackled, and it needs to be done sooner rather than later. With children’s health at risk, it’s encouraging to see cities such as London taking action, but is it enough?

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