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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us