A top Brighton scientist said the Government’s plan to ban new diesel and petrol cars from 2040 is 'just too long' a wait.
Dr Kirsty Smallbone, head of the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology and a lead researcher on air pollution, has urged the Government to bring the ban forward.
She said: “Let’s go for 10 years time, plenty of time for the market to adjust, for a changeover in van and car fleet renewals and plenty of time for the government to develop incentive schemes to encourage vehicle trade-ins to meet the deadline.”
Dr Smallbone said over 50,000 people die each year in the UK from air pollution-related diseases, costing the NHS is around 16 per cent of its total budget.
She said: “Why is this not declared a public health crisis public health crisis which demands immediate action?
“After all, liver diseases related to heavy drinking kill 12,300 people per year and this is considered a public health emergency.”
Dr Smallbone and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.
Their data comes from the university’s £250,000 air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative.
Dr Smallbone said air pollution was now one of the greatest threats to global society, and the UK lies within a pollution hot spot.
She criticised the Government’s track record on tackling air pollution as not being ambitious enough. Meanwhile, she said, the university was taking action.
“We are speaking to industry on new air filters for buildings and taking our research to schools – and we are looking into establishing an Education Centre at the university to inform young children.”
The government's new strategy includes a £255m fund for local councils which must draw up plans to reduce air pollution by December 2018.
This forms part of the Government’s £3 billion programme to clean up the air and reduce vehicle emissions – details of which are expected to be published next year in a Clean Air Strategy.