Car pollution unit scrapped while asthma cases soar: Six scientists quit over research merger

AS ASTHMA cases rise rapidly, a government research team that measures the pollution emerging from cars and lorries is being disbanded.

All six members of the vehicle emissions group at the Warren Spring Laboratory, the state's leading centre for research into pollution and environmental technology, are quitting.

They are among nearly 100 scientists leaving the laboratory, run by the Department of Trade and Industry, because of its controversial merger with the state-owned UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Yesterday, Labour said government figures showed that asthma cases in England had nearly trebled in 12 years, from 36,650 in 1979 to 93,277 in 1991.

Its environment spokesman, George Howarth, said there was good reason to believe that the growth of car and lorry traffic was implicated. 'It seems more than a coincidence,' he said.

The asthma figures, obtained in a parliamentary answer from the Department of Health, show the highest rises were in the West Midlands (186 per cent) and the South-west (178 per cent). The lowest increases were in the Oxford and North-western NHS regions, although even there the number of cases more than doubled.

Department of Transport statistics show that motor traffic in Britain grew by 44 per cent in the decade to 1992, while motorway traffic more than doubled. As the number of cars and lorries rose and people drove more, emissions of the main vehicle pollutants carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen rose 50 per cent over this period.

The causes of asthma are complex, but a growing number of experts believe vehicle pollution plays an important part.

Mr Howarth condemned the disbanding of the Warren Spring team at a time of mounting concern over vehicle pollution. 'They're exactly the sort of people the Government needs to provide advice and analysis,' he said.

The team's leader, Ivan Farrow, has joined Ricardo, a vehicle engineering consultancy, in preference to moving from the laboratory at Stevenage in Hertfordshire to the AEA's premises at Culham in Oxfordshire.

Of Warren Spring's 180 scientists, only half are transferring to the new National Environmental Technology Centre, created by the merger with the AEA. A quarter turned down the chance to move, and the remaining quarter were not offered jobs with the new organisation.

The cost-saving merger, announced by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, 10 months ago and now almost complete, has not given equal terms to the two bodies. Of Warren Spring's nine top managers, only one is transferring and several of the laboratory's other research teams have also fragmented.

Dr John Rae, the senior AEA executive in charge of the merger, said the equipment necessary for measuring vehicle emissions had been moved from Warren Spring, and a new research team would be formed. 'The decision to merge the two organisations is history and every bit of criticism and sniping about it that still goes on makes extra problems. I've got the job of making it work, and work it will.'

A Gallup opinion poll for the National Asthma Campaign found 66 per cent of people believed there was a link between exhaust fumes and asthma. Some 22 per cent said someone in their home suffered from the affliction.

The National Asthma Campaign and ASH, the anti-smoking pressure group, have welcomed a county court award of pounds 50 to Terry Hurlstone, a retired teacher of Romford in Essex. He had claimed stress damages against a private hospital as a result of suffering 'passive smoking' while visiting a supposedly non-smoking ward at the hospital in Brentwood.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?