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UKHACC calls for £10 a head on active travel

30th October 2018

Traffic congestion

Traffic congestion

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) yesterday launched a new report, calling for £10 per head per year to be spent on active travel.

UKHACC is a body which represents the Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the Faculty for Public Health, the BMJ, and the Lancet. Its report notes that air pollution contributes to around 40,000 deaths each year in the UK, and costs the economy an estimated £22 billion.

UKHACC report: the damage caused by air pollution

Children are amongst the most vulnerable to air pollution. Due to its effects, they can suffer from aggravated asthma, emphysema and bronchiectasis. Pollution can cause developmental problems of the lungs of infants. Other effects are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, stroke, and dementia.

Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said, 'Air pollution is an invisible killer in adults, and in children its toxins get into their bodies through the lungs, stunting lung growth, causing asthma, and adversely influencing other organs. More than 4.5 million children living in the UK are affected by toxic levels of air pollution, and it is a disgrace that, in 2018, parents and guardians have to worry about their children's exposure when playing outside or walking to school.'

It is worth noting that parents should also worry about exposure to air pollution if they are driving their children to school, as air inside vehicles has been shown to be more polluted than that outside.

The report, Moving Beyond the Air Quality Crisis, calls for a new Clean Air Act. It would deal with road transport, which is a major contributor to our toxic air.

Professor Grigg said that employers and schools '...must encourage and facilitate better use of public transport and active travel options like walking, scooting, and cycling to school. Cycle networks must be expanded and spaces away from traffic developed so children and their parents can choose active travel over their car without risking increased exposure to pollution to their children.'

UKHACC report: the recommendations

The report recommends that a Clean Air Act should set legally binding standards on air quality, with an independent statutory body to enforce them. It suggests that a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars be brought forward to 2030.

Another recommendation is an Active Travel Scheme, to support businesses and households to adopt shared and active transport options. It would provide, for example, discounts on car club schemes, access to bikes, and support to engage in physical activity. This would be a change from previous scrappage policies, which typically provided grants to buy new vehicles.

The report calls for investment of £10 per head in active travel by 2020.

Another idea is for an NHS Clean Air Fund, to support the adoption of low and zero emission vehicles for the NHS, and for electric charging infrastructure. It would be paid for by fines when industries breach emissions regulations.

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