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Study Questions Effectiveness of Low Emission Zones

October 28, 2015
Public Health

A six year study that examined the lung function of 2,400 children at 25 schools in East London has concluded that the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) introduced in the area in 2008 has made no perceivable difference to public health.

Researchers looked at lung inflammation and capacity in eight and nine year olds exposed to high levels of air pollution. Their findings suggest that children exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution have approximately 10% less lung capacity than normal. Tests also looked for the presence of heavy metals from diesel exhausts in urine, an indication of exposure to high levels of particulate pollution.

The study was led by Professor Chris Griffiths from the Medical Research Council, who said its findings now question the use of Low Emission Zones to reduce pollution levels. “It is very disappointing that the LEZ, which was specifically designed as a major public health intervention, has so far brought about no change,” he said. “This raises questions over the government’s current consultation on air quality, which is based around similar low emission zones in up to 30 other polluted urban areas.”

The news comes at the same time as the government’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into DEFRA’s role in tackling air quality. MP’s will look at the departments draft air quality plan which has been drawn up in an attempt to ensure the UK complies with EU limits on Nitrogen dioxide.