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UK city planners urged to protect children from pollution

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has advised planning authorities to prevent developers from building schools, nurseries and homes in areas with high levels of pollution. This will help reduce the effects of road-traffic-related air pollution impact on children’s health. 
NICE provides the UK government with national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. “Dirty air is currently contributing to 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is having a particularly negative impact on children. NICE’s air pollution quality standard is much needed. It is essential that strategic planning policies reduce our reliance on polluting vehicles by making it easier for people to walk more.” said Stephen Edwards the director of policy and communications for Living Streets.
The new quality standard states “local authorities should be strategic leaders of local initiatives to address air pollution, working in a coordinated way with key partners to ensure a consistent and planned approach”. One of the recommendations is planting more trees and vegetation in open spaces or green roofs where ventilation isn’t restricted. Since this can provide safe routes for walking and cycling and encourage people to exercise. With the added bonus of zero emission travel.

Professor Gillian Leng, the deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “It’s important that local authorities implement strategies to ensure local people are protected from the effects of air pollution. If we can address pollution at the planning stage, we can reduce the need for expensive remedial action further down the line.

Last year UNICEF UK revealed that children in London are exposed to more than 60% of their daily air pollution intake during the school run and while in school. Richard Blyth, head of policy and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute, says “Planners have a leading role in joining up the dots, from housing and transport to green spaces and land use management, to ensure communities benefit from a holistic approach to tackling air pollution. NICE’s quality air standard should prompt more concerted efforts to tackle this vital issue.”

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist. She is also the Community Manager and Events Manager of Child in the City.

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