The Government’s health adviser, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidance aimed at helping local councils to improve air quality across England.
The guideline, developed by NICE and Public Health England (PHE), says bylaws could be introduced as a way to enforce “no vehicle idling” in areas where vulnerable people collect (for example schools, hospitals and care homes).
“Air pollution is harmful to everyone,” it says, “But there are some people who are more at risk than others. Children (14 and under) and older people (65 and older) are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution. As are people with respiratory conditions, like asthma, or heart problems.”
PHE estimates long-term exposure to particulate air pollution has ‘an effect equivalent to’ around 25,000 deaths a year in England, making air pollution the largest environmental risk linked to deaths every year.
It adds that Road traffic is estimated to contribute more than 64% of air pollution recorded in towns and cities. This comes from exhausts and other sources such as the wear of tyres, and that no-idling zones could be used as a way to decrease the level of pollutants those people most at risk are exposed to.
“Air pollution is a major risk to our health, and measures suggested so far have not managed to tackle the problem sufficiently,” said Professor Paul Lincoln, chair of the NICE guideline committee. “This guidance is based upon the best evidence available. It outlines a range of practical steps that Local Authorities can take, such as the implementation of no-idling zones, to reduce emissions and protect the public.”
Commenting on this, RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said, “We welcome the principle of no-idling zones, especially outside schools, hospitals and care homes. No-one should have to suffer dirty air as a result of a driver leaving their engine on unnecessarily. Sadly, many drivers don’t realise the harm they are causing by doing this.
“Schools should work closely with local authorities to first encourage parents to switch their engines off. It’s right that those that then persist in leaving them on should be subject to a charge.
“While it is going to take a combination of different actions to rid our towns and cities of dirty air, introducing no-idling zones is one simple step that we can do now that can lead to cleaner air for all of us.
“Other actions, such as encouraging a smoother flow of vehicles by optimising the phasing of traffic lights and replacing speed humps with speed cushions, can also go a long way in tackling Britain’s air pollution problem.”