'Children pay a huge price for their health': Calls to reduce car use in Newcastle school run

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Parents and carers are being urged to reduce car use in an attempt to cut down on toxic levels of air pollution in Newcastle.

It comes after research from Newcastle University found that higher levels of pollution could be linked to times of the day when there is increased traffic on the roads, such as during rush hour.

Dr Keast at Newcastle University, said: “The study highlights the need to act urgently to protect our children’s health. 

“Our research provides evidence which organisations can use to plan and implement policy at both a local and national level to protect children from the harmful effects of ambient air pollution during their day at school.”

The data was collected from sensors that were installed by the Urban Observatory and the council, to monitor levels of air pollution, wind flow and traffic in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Experts say that children are particularly vulnerable to air pollutants which can cause irreversible damage to their lungs.

Dr Mike McKean, Consultant in Children’s Respiratory Health at the Great North Children’s Hospital at the RVI, said: “Children pay a huge price for their health due to pollution – their developing lungs are easily damaged by exhaust gases.

“We see many children attending our Emergency Department who are gasping for breath, suffering life threatening episodes of asthma and lung infections that are made so much worse by exposure to pollution."

Leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes wants parents to support efforts to improve air quality in the city by reducing the number of school-run journeys that are made by car or, if they have to drive, by parking further away from the school gates and walking the rest of the way.

Cllr Forbes, said: “It’s time for the school run to be cleaned up. It is detrimental to all our health and, as well as improving air quality, leaving the car at home gives wider health benefits from the exercise.

“We’re urging all parents and carers who can choose to walk, scoot or cycle to school to please leave the car at home or park further away to reduce pollution and congestion at the school gates. 

The council is looking at introducing measures including School Streets and low traffic neighbourhoods in areas across the city to help reduce traffic, lower pollution levels and improve road safety.