One in three people 'at risk from air pollution'

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The Independent Online
THE HEALTH of more than a third of the population is at risk from air pollution, the Liberal Democrats said yesterday at the start of a campaign for government action to clean up the atmosphere.

Simon Hughes, the party's environment spokesman, told a Westminster press conference that asthma was one of the few diseases on the increase in Britain. 'It is rocketing out of control into an asthma epidemic,' he said. 'There is now strong evidence of a link between increasing air pollution and the growing asthma emergency. The World Health Organisation (WHO) international classification of diseases accepts the link between asthma and air pollution - now the Government must act.'

According to his calculations, more than 20.5 million people, more than a third of the population, are in groups considered to be at risk from air pollution - those aged under 14, people over 65, pregnant women and unborn babies.

'The Government claim that there is no proof that the incidence of asthma is rising,' Mr Hughes said. But his own analysis of government figures showed that the number of prescriptions for the treatment of asthma had more than doubled, to 27 million a year, over the last decade.

Arguing that government monitoring of air pollution was 'shabby and inadequate', Mr Hughes said that there were only 12 nitrogen oxide monitoring stations in the United Kingdom, compared with 200 in Germany, and 1,337 in Japan.

He called on the Government to treble the number of monitoring stations, so that each town and city with more than 250,000 people was monitored for all pollutants.

Mr Hughes also urged the Government to increase investment in public transport, to cut down on exhaust emissions, and to accept WHO health monitoring guidelines.