Mayor takes on whingeing drivers

Independent, 18 January 2003:

Your correspondence columns have been filled with howls of protest from motorists who seem to regard Ken Livingtson’s central London congestion charge as a personal attack on their freedom. They seem oblivious to the fact that reducing traffic will greatly improve everyone’s quality of life; allowing traffic to Increase will pose serious risks to their health and the environment.

These concerns have become more urgent as traffic volume Increases and medical science identifies the risks to health from vehicle emissions. Fifteen years ago I gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities (Environment) as follows:“There is a strong correlation between levels of total suspended particulates in the atmosphere and infant mortality, and clear evidence of particles aggravating disease among bronchitics, asthmatics and cardiovascular patients”.

Two years ago the New England Journal of Medicine published a major study of air pollution in 20 US cities showing that mortality, particularly from heart and lung disease, was closely linked with the level of fine particulates in the atmosphere. These are derived mainly from diesel engines and this is one reason that Ken Livingstone is offering exemptions to vehicles that run on liquid petroleum gas.

In addition, vehicle pollution generates Ozone and this is now regarded, not just as an aggravating factor for chest disease, but an actual cause of asthma, which now affects 15 per cent of children in the UK. Parents in London need to recognise that there is a heavy cost associated with unrestricted sage and the Mayor is merely passing some of that cost to the polluter.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire