Parents who drive their children to school rather than walk are responsible for damaging the air quality, a health minister said.
Jackie Doyle-Price laid out what the Government is doing to deal with the issue of toxic air, but said individuals need to take more responsibility for their actions.
She was responding to the Lib Dems’ Christine Jardine in the Commons during Health Questions this morning.
The MP for Edinburgh West said studies show living within 75 metres of a major road as a child creates a 29% increased risk of contracting lifetime asthma.
Ms Jardine asked: “Given that there are also 2,000 nurseries in this country close to dangerous high levels of polluted roads, what action can the minister assure is being taken along with her counterparts in Scotland and Defra to tackle this on a UK scale?”
Ms Doyle-Price explained the Government’s clean air strategy, led by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, including measures to reduce overall levels of pollutants, take cars off the road and “tackle wood-burning fires”.
She added: “But also, we need to be much more vigilant in advising the public of the risks to this, and including actually how they uses their cars.
“The time was when I went to school I used to walk there, too often we see parents dropping their kids off with idling engines that cause pollution.”
Labour’s Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) called the response “warm words”, saying the Defra plans “are to tackle the poisonous air that our children are breathing, pregnant women are breathing, by 2040”, adding: “The fact is that children are being poisoned now, get on with it!”
The minister replied: “I can assure him we are working very closely with Defra, but ultimately we do need to encourage the public to change its behaviour, and we need to have much more open debate about the consequences of bad air.”