Motorists on the school run could be poisoning their children, warns leading scientist Professor Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser.
Professor King claims that children are at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution in cars as the exposure to harmful, toxic gas is often grater inside a car than outside, according to a report in The Guardian.
Of course, it’s no surprise to hear that walking or cycling to school is the healthiest option when possible, but it’s shocking to hear such a leading voice in the world of science suggest that riding inside a car is more harmful than being outside it.
"Air pollution is up to 12 times higher inside the car than outside"
Speaking about air pollution, Professor King claimed that “Children sitting in the backseat of vehicles are likely to be exposed to dangerous levels… You may be driving a cleaner vehicle but your children are sitting in a box collecting toxic gases from all the vehicles around you."
Professor King added “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 claims support scientific experiments, undertaken over the past 16 years, showing that people inside cars are exposed to far higher levels of air pollution than those walking or cycling along the same routes.
Asthma expert, Professor Stephen Holgate of Southampton University, and chair of the royal College of Physicians claims that studies show air pollution is “nine to 12 times higher inside the car than outside," adding “Children are in the back of the car and often the car has the fans on, just sucking the fresh exhaust coming out of the car or lorry in front of them straight into the back of the car." Grim.
Of course, this pollution is the same for adults as it is for children. However, the affect of the pollution is greater on children as they are more vulnerable than adults. Exposure to toxic gasses can lead to stunted growth and an increased risk of sensitisation which can, in turn, lead to asthma and other respiratory conditions.
"It's appalling that we haven’t dealt with this properly, and put children’s and adults’ health first"
Furthermore, a study carried out in Barcelona shows that exposure to air pollution can reduce the ability of a child to concentrate, and can also decrease their reactions.
Professor King’s claims coincide with UK government facing a third legal defeat for failing to tackle the illegal levels of pollution in the country. “There is a very strange situation where the government has to make laws by being taken to court repeatedly." said Professor Holgate, adding “In my view it is really quite appalling that we haven’t started to deal with this properly and put children’s and adults’ health first."