Lungs of schoolchildren to be tested in pollution study
Drivers of older vehicles face charge in ultra low emissions zone
15 June, 2018 — By William McLennan
Sadiq Khan visits Netley School
THE lungs of Camden schoolchildren whose playground is a few hundred metres from one of London’s busiest roads are being measured by researchers looking at the impact of pollution.
Pupils at Netley Primary School, near Euston Road, are the subject of a long-term study looking at the how vehicle emissions affect development.
The school falls just outside the area of the so-called “ultra low emissions zone” or ULEZ, which will see drivers of the most polluting vehicles charged a daily tariff, similar to the Congestion Charge, when it comes into effect in April next year.
It is hoped that the zone, which begins on the south of Euston Road, will lead to a decrease in traffic and pollution.
Scientists from Queen Mary University will compare the lung capacity of Netley pupils with those of children in Luton, which is outside the bounds of the ULEZ, to show the health impacts of the policy.
Lead researcher Chris Griffiths, a professor at the university, said: “Low emission zones are being promoted as the best way to tackle traffic pollution and are common across Europe. If ambitious enough they can improve air quality, but we don’t know whether they benefit health. This study will tell us whether this type of low emission zone improves children’s lung growth and development.”
Bavaani Nanthabalan, executive headteacher at Netley, said air pollution was a “major worry for parents”, adding: “We’re delighted to be helping to answer these important questions about children’s health and development.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan visited the school on Friday to announce plans to expand the ULEZ to cover all of inner London, extending to the north and south circular roads by October 2021. Drivers of older vehicles would be charged £12.50 a day if they enter the zone.
He said: “It’s so important to areas like Camden, I’ve met some of the children who actually are directly affected by the poor-quality air. “The air quality in London is a crisis, it leads to thousands of premature deaths, it leads to children having underdeveloped lungs and adults having all sorts of problem, from dementia, to heart disease, to asthma.”
Asked what he would tell those who rely on their vehicles and cannot afford to upgrade to a newer, less-polluting model, Mr Khan said: “I can understand the concerns people have got.” He said he had been lobbying the government for a diesel scrappage scheme “targeted towards low-income families, businesses and charities, to help them move from diesel to cleaner forms of vehicles”.
Sian Berry, a Green councillor in Highgate and a London Assembly member who has been pushing the mayor for clean air reforms, said the zone was “too late, and not wide enough or fierce enough”.