(Bloomberg) -- People should scold motorists who leave their engines running while they’re parked because of the health risks caused by air pollution, said Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer.
Any driver pumping out fumes outside a school is an “incredibly antisocial person,” he added, urging Britons to “have the courage” to challenge idling motorists.
Whitty — who played a prominent role in the UK’s handling of Covid-19 — made the comments alongside publication of his independent annual report, which focused on the dangers of air pollution. He said it currently kills as many as 38,000 people a year in England.
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Whitty backed London’s ultra-low emissions zone, which aims to encourage drivers to switch to less polluting vehicles. The policy had been “a win for absolutely everybody, including the people driving the cars,” he said.
Whitty also described himself as “pro-EV,” saying electric cars pose lower health risks compared to gasoline or diesel vehicles.
The report, released Thursday, shows how several measures of air pollution have dropped sharply since 1970. Levels of particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide in the air have all fallen over the past 50 years, but ammonia pollution, which comes largely from agriculture, has remained nearly static.
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The ultra-low emissions zone was first considered by Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London in 2014, to reduce the amount of pollution from diesel vehicles. It was eventually rolled out by his sucessor, Sadiq Khan, in April 2019 to central London and was expanded last year to include the area inside the North and South Circular roads. It will be expanded again in August 2023 to include all of Greater London.
The £12.50 ($15.24) daily fee is charged to vehicles that do not meet minimum emission standards. Transport for London says this means petrol cars that meet the standards were generally first registered after 2005, and after September 2015 for diesel.
There’s also a £15-a-day congestion charge that must be paid to drive in central London during the day on weekdays, and afternoons on weekends.
As chief medical officer, Whitty has published independent reports annually on a topic that he believes to be important and then pushes the issue to government the following year. Last year he wrote about deprivation in coastal communities, and in 2020 published an overview of the state of health in England.
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