Air pollution risk to children higher in cars

Prof Sir David King has warned that children are at greater risk of dangerous levels of air pollution in vehicles than outside vehicles.

Writing for the Guardian, King said that exposure to toxic air is often far higher inside than outside vehicles, and advised it to be healthier for children to walk or cycle to school.

Citing the widespread support to ban smoking in cars with children, the former government chief scientific adviser questioned ‘why are we still happy for our children to breathe in toxic emissions in the back of our cars?’.

Research shows that pollution ‘is nine to 12 times higher inside the car than outside’, with children more vulnerable to poor air quality than adults, stunting the growing of their lungs and increasing the risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Moreover, a recent study in Barcelona showed that air pollution reduces the ability of children to concentrate and slows their reaction times.

King said: “Children sitting in the backseat of vehicles are likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. You may be driving a cleaner vehicle but your children are sitting in a box collecting toxic gases from all the vehicles around you.

“The best thing for all our health is to leave our cars behind. “It’s been shown that the health benefits of walking and cycling far outweigh the costs of breathing in pollution. If more drivers knew the damage they could be doing to their children, I think they’d think twice about getting in the car.”

The UK government is currently facing a third legal defeat for failing to tackle the country’s illegal levels of air pollution.