Your report (School run is the ‘biggest polluter’ of air children breathe, 18 September) highlights the continuing failure of government to recognise the dangers of air pollution, specifically from diesel engines, and to take necessary action to limit the number of premature deaths. But the school run is only part of the problem facing infants, children and the wider population.
Many schools are on what are now extremely busy roads; only a minority have had an air pollution survey; and because of austerity measures they seldom have the resources to take remedial action by acquiring air purifiers. School buses keep their diesel engines ticking over for half an hour or longer and legal restrictions are simply ignored by bus companies and the police. Ice-cream vans in public parks and holiday resorts are diesel-powered, but they keep their engines running all day, even when located near children’s playgrounds.
The implications are worrying: key public health issues are not prioritised and there is only a limited willingness to impose legislation – for example, why are school buses, ice-cream vans and taxis not required to be electric-powered? The health consequences are unacceptable in terms of reduced life expectancy, but they are also class-specific, as many of the older schools were built in working-class areas, aggravating the widening health differential between the rich and the poor.
Professor Robert Lee