Government accused of car fumes cover-up

NO WARNINGS about dangers to health from record levels of one of Britain's nastiest air pollutants will be given to the public under proposals published by a government committee last week.

The committee's report - into high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, increasingly blamed for exacerbating the asthma which affects one in every seven British children - was slipped out by the Department of Health last week with unusual coyness, even by Whitehall standards.

No copies were sent to the press and requests for them were refused. And none of four leading experts on asthma contacted by the Independent on Sunday were aware of its publication.

The report Oxides of Nitrogen by the Advisory Group on the Medical Aspects of Air Pollution Episodes, says that only a 'few', 'occasional' and 'sensitive' people will suffer even from the highest levels of the pollution ever found in Britain. One leading authority accused it of 'brushing the problem under the carpet'.

It has already alarmed officials at the Department of the Environment who tried, without success, to modify its conclusions before publication. But the Department of Health says that its Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenneth Calman, will circulate the document to all Britain's doctors in the New Year; the report says this is 'particularly important' to allay the fears of asthmatics.

Nitrogen dioxide, mainly produced in exhaust fumes, was described as 'of primary concern' and as 'perhaps the pollutant of greatest concern' by an Environment Department report earlier this year. Over the past 20 years levels of the pollutant have more than doubled in Britain, while they have been reduced in the United States.

In October, the Independent on Sunday revealed that levels of nitrogen dioxide in British cities were twice as high as the Government admitted - because it sited its monitoring stations away from heavy traffic, in defiance of EC law.

Last week's report recommends that no warning should be given to the British public about high levels of the pollution unless they exceed 600 parts per billion, nearly three times the safety limit set by the World Health Organisation 'for protecting public health from adverse effects of air pollution'.

In practice, if this proposal is accepted, no warnings will be given because the pollution never reaches this level in Britain. The record so far, reached in December 1991, was 423 parts per billion.

The report astounded authorities in the field. Dr John Whitelegg, of Lancaster University, who by coincidence published a widely publicised report on the same day showing a connection between pollution and ill-health.

He said: 'I cannot understand why the committee should come up with such conclusions. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that air pollution is a problem; we do not need people trying to brush it under the carpet.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Vehicle Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Working with a set process to achieve profitab...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Coordinator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Coordinator is required to join a...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Software House - PRINCE2, PMP

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A dynamic, customer oriented Pr...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate