Born in Bradford research finds new evidence of harm of air pollution on brain development of children in the city

Evidence from the ground-breaking Born in Bradford (BiB) research study, which tracks the lives of more than 30,000 Bradfordians, has found clear evidence of the harm of traffic-related air pollution on children’s brain development.

Working with scientists across Europe, BiB researchers measured the brain development of over 2,000 children aged 4-5 years living in the city using a range of tests to measure their brain function.

They found that children who lived nearer busy roads with high levels of air pollution performed worse on the tests than those living in less polluted areas. Living near green space, for example, parks or recreational facilities, was linked to better performance, and that this was due to the reduced pollution on those areas.

“Born in Bradford has already provided vital scientific evidence about the harm of air pollution in pregnancy harming the growth of unborn babies, and on children in contributing to the high levels of asthma in the city,” said Professor Rosie McEachan, Director of the Born in Bradford study.

“These results show us that air pollution can harm brain development in children, which can lead to poorer education attainment or mental health problems in later life.”

Professor John Wright, Director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “The evidence of the toxic nature of the emissions coming out of our car exhausts has become overwhelming.”

“These are invisible poisons that we churn out into our pure Yorkshire air every day – harming the lives of our children. Fifty years ago we thought that smoking was harmless, but high quality epidemiological evidence has lifted the scales from our eyes. We are in a similar position today with traffic-related air pollution – waking up to the immense harm that this is causing to our health and wellbeing.”

The Government has put Bradford council under a directive to improve its air quality and so, this year, the most polluting taxis, buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles, lorries and vans will be charged a daily fee to enter the city’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ). Private vehicles will not be charged.

Up to £11.74m in grants are available to taxi drivers to cover up to £10,000 towards the cost of replacing or upgrading a vehicle to avoid the charges. The new CAZ should substantially reduce pollution in the city and improve health.

A survey carried out by BiB with over 1,100 Bradford families with school-aged children found only 15% thought the air quality in Bradford was good. There was widespread support for the CAZ with 71% in favour and 66% reporting that they thought the CAZ would improve the health of their family and community.

BiB Principal Research Fellow, Tiffany Yang, said: “High levels of air pollution harm the health of children in Bradford. Forty percent of Bradford’s schools are located within the CAZ, and we estimate that there could be a 30% reduction in dangerous pollutants around schools as a result of the CAZ. Our findings show that families are keen for pollution to be tackled to clean up the air Bradford children breathe.”


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