Bristol's polluted air is stunting children's lungs and triggering asthma

November 25 2019
Bristol's polluted air is stunting children's lungs and triggering asthma

CAMPAIGNERS are demanding action after experts found children living near busy Bristol roads may have stunted lung growth.

Roadside air pollution can also make asthmatic children more likely to cough and raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer in all residents, according to a team who looked at the health of people living within 50 metres of a major road in nine UK cities.

In Bristol, the King’s College London research team found children living near busy roads such as Fishponds Road, Muller Road and Stapleton Road are predicted to have five per cent less lung growth than children living in the city’s quieter, less polluted streets.

Children with asthmatic symptoms living by a major road in Bristol may also be five per cent more likely to suffer “bronchitic symptoms” such as cough and phlegm.

The chance of ending up in hospital with a stroke is three per cent higher if you live near a busy road in the city, and the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease goes up by  eight per cent.

The study did not have precise figures for Bristol when it came to the risk of heart attack or lung cancer. But in London, roadside air pollution was found to drive up the long-term risk of having a heart attack out of hospital by three per cent and to contribute to a 10 per cent greater chance of developing lung cancer.

Mum Jo Chesterman is campaigning for action on pollution as part of the St George Breathing Better group.

Jo lives near the main A420 through St George and her daughter Flo, who is seven, has severe asthma and has had to use an inhaler since she was two.

Jo said: "She has been hospitalised twice for breathing difficulties, plus several out of hours emergency appointments. I don't know if air pollution caused her asthma but it definitely makes it worse. We walk to school through toxic pollution.

"East Bristol fails to be on the council’s radar for any strategies to reduce air pollution, so the mission of St George Breathing Better is to change that.

That I live in a time where cars are more important than people breaks my heart. We need politicians to stop talking about this and take decisive action.”

The government has ordered 24 local authorities, including Bristol, to reduce their nitrogen dioxide levels to within legal limits as quickly as possible and the council's diesel ban and clean air zone for the city centre has been backed by Ruth May, the NHS chief nursing offer for England.

She said: “Saving lives through reducing toxic fumes is everyone’s business and with people in major cities like Bristol at extra risk of killer conditions like cardiac arrest, stroke and asthma attack on days of high pollution, Bristol is right to take action."

Dr Rosa Roberts, a psychiatrist who works at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: “Bristol is a highly polluted city.

The current toxic levels of air pollution are leading to stunted lung growth in children, poor mental health and thousands of preventable deaths nationwide.

In Bristol, our mayor and local councils are beginning to make some positive changes, such as banning diesel cars from the city centre.

However to make a real difference and truly protect our futures, we need much bigger and more far-reaching actions right now.”

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service