From today the most polluting vehicles on London roads will face a ‘toxicity’ fee. It’s a vital first step towards cleaning up the UK’s dangerously dirty air
A report released last week by international experts shows pollution to have caused more deaths in the UK than in many other countries in western Europe. Air pollution is largely invisible, so it is hard to grasp how much damage it is doing to our health. But studies like the Lancet commission on pollution make it clear that poor air quality increases not only the likelihood of developing a range of respiratory illnesses, but also the frequency and severity of bouts of those illnesses.
Like many GPs, I see this “double hit” in the children and adolescents who come to surgery every day. Preschool children who live near main roads have an increased risk of developing wheeze triggered by viral colds – a condition we call “preschool wheeze”. Exposure to traffic pollution also increases the chance of a child developing asthma. For preschool wheezers and children with asthma, high pollution days can then trigger episodes of severe wheezing, especially when pollution has not been dispersed by the wind.