Ministers are springing into action in response to The Independent on Sunday's asthma campaign, as evidence mounts that traffic fumes cause the disease.
Yvette Cooper, the Public Health minister and Michael Meacher the Environment minister, have asked the Government's official advisers to review their opinion that pollution does not cause the disease, after our revelations over the past two weeks. And they are taking specific steps to combat pollution and improve treatment of the disease.
The ministers said they would refer a Californian study that shows that ozone causes the disease – which affects one in every seven British children – to the official Committee on the Medical effects of Air Pollution. Seven years ago the committee concluded that pollution aggravated but did not cause the disease. It is now being asked to re-examine its verdict.
Professor John Ayres, the chairman of the committee, writing on page 21 of today's paper, calls the research "important", and Mr Meacher says "it is a thorough and very serious study that needs to be looked at very carefully".
Mr Meacher will call tomorrow on the European Commission to draw up new measures to combat ozone, the pollutant blamed in the study, and will lobby other EU environment ministers, meeting in Brussels, to join him in pressing for further controls.
Meanwhile, Ms Cooper is to include asthma in a new child health service framework, which will set out guidance to family doctors and clinics on tackling the increase in asthma in children.
By contrast, however, British Labour MEPs – with the acquiescence of the Department of Transport – last week emasculated a bill in the European Parliament, proposed by Caroline Lucas, a British Green MEP, which would have required the EU to study the health effects of any road schemes it wished to finance.
Yet a new study at Leicester University shows that children living near busy roads have most pollution in their lungs. Dr Jonathon Grigg, one of the scientists doing the research, said: "This links up with the observation that living very close to a main road is a very significant risk factor for a variety of respiratory diseases."Reuse content