Parents should be banned from idling their cars near schools to help cut premature deaths, according to health experts.
Banning drivers from running their car engines while waiting to pick up their children is among a series of measures being put forward as a means to cut air pollution and reduce its associated impact on public health.
Promoting car sharing and high-occupancy lanes, introducing more low-emission zones and creating priority parking for low-emissions vehicles are among other proposals being put forward by Public Health England (PHE).
The health body’s medical director, Professor Paul Cosford, said that the harmful impact of air pollution was clear but that action to tackle it needed to be accelerated.
Making schools cleaner
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we were having a conversation about 30,000 people dying each year because of a polluted water supply, I think we would have a very different conversation. It would be about ‘What do we need to do now and how quickly can we do it?’.”
Asked if cars should be banned from the school run he said: “If we consider this to be an issue of future generations, for our children, let’s have a generation of children brought up free from the scourge and the harms of air pollution.
“And that does then take you to ‘What can we do about making sure schools are at least as clean as possible?’
“We should stop idling outside schools, we should make sure that children can walk or cycle to school, and we should make sure that schools work with their parents about how they can do their best for this.”
The proposals come after research last year found children are most exposed to dangerous air pollution while on the school run and while in the playground.
The study by Unicef UK and Queen Mary University of London found that pupils spend 40 per cent of their time on the school run and at school yet they receive 60 per cent of their exposure to tiny particles of black carbon.
Unicef UK estimates that 4.5 million children are growing up in towns and cities in the UK with unsafe levels of particulate pollution.