NICE proposals to reduce health impacts of air pollution also include removing speed bumps and implementing “no vehicle idling” areas around schools
Businesses should prep their transport staff to modify their driving, in order to reduce emissions which contribute to poor air quality, the UK’s national health body has said.
In a draft guidance released today on improving outdoor air quality and health, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) pushed for motorists to be taught lower emission driving skills such as avoiding engine idling and accelerating and decelerating more smoothly.
The guidance also put forward several policy proposals to reduce emissions by minimising sharp changes in speed. For example, it suggests the removal or better design of speed bumps and the installation of temporary motorway speed limits – to as low as 50mph during busy times – in order to keep traffic at a more constant speed.
The draft document also advises local councils to protect people from the health impacts of air pollution by constructing buildings away from busy roads and screening cyclists from roads using shrubs or plants where appropriate. It also proposes the introduction of “no vehicle idling” zones around schools and care homes.
Air pollution and its health impact costs the UK up to £18.6bn a year, NICE said, with road traffic the cause of over 64 per cent of air pollution in urban areas. The emissions and environmental risks associated with pollution are linked to around 25,000 deaths a year in England, NICE added – close to five per cent of all deaths.
Professor Paul Lincoln, NICE guideline committee chair and chief executive of UK Health Forum, called air pollution from traffic a “major risk” to public health, adding that it also contributes to health inequalities.
“The NICE guidance sets out a strategic range of evidence based practical measures to encourage low or zero emissions transport,” he said in a statement. “This is very timely given the imperative to meet EU and national air quality standards.”
Dr Jill Meara, acting director of Public Health England (PHE)’s centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards, added the advice will also help to improve people’s wellbeing by encouraging exercise and also tackle climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Green campaigners gave the advice a cautious welcome, although some argue the suggested measures do not go far enough. Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said NICE was just “tinkering around the edges” of the issue.
“While NICE is rightly saying schools and nurseries must be built away from busy roads, we must deal with the real crux of the issue and reduce air pollution levels, not just learn to avoid the worst of it,” she said in a statement.
“Action is needed both to ensure vehicles on the road are clean and that there are fewer of them – diesel vehicles, which are the most polluting, must be phased out and our transport and planning policy needs a radical overhaul. This is no time for tinkering around the edges – to deal with this public health crisis we must plan our towns and cities in ways which actually reduces traffic and gives people real alternatives to driving.”
The draft recommendations are now out for public consultation until 25 January 2017, with publication of the final recommendations expected in June 2017.