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Over half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. By the middle of this century this is expected to increase to 70%. Our cities and towns are becoming increasingly polluted, and our parks, gardens and woods are in danger.
We work with a number of similar studies in Europe to examine links between environmental influences and health. Our work has shown that during pregnancy exposure to pollutants commonly found in the air, such as those from traffic, causes babies to be born at a lower birth weight, even where the pollution is at levels well below those allowed in current European Union (EU) air-quality rules. A low birth weight is serious because it is a predictor of other health problems in childhood and later life. Our work has also shown that having a local natural ‘green’ environment to walk in, such as parks and woods, has a beneficial effect for both mothers and children.
We are working closely with our partners in public health, transport, air quality and the voluntary sector in Bradford to make improvements to the local environment and to measure the impact of these improvements on health. We are developing local projects to increase ‘active travel’ such as walking or cycling, and to reduce car use. We are also working with the ‘Better Start Bradford project to assess the impact of new strategies to make environmental changes which aim to reduce exposure to emissions for pregnant women and small children, and discovering, developing and promoting local green spaces and community gardens. Nationally we want to encourage the introduction of low vehicle emission strategies.
Our work has already had an impact on European policy. There have been changes that have been influenced by our work to make a lower level of emissions compulsory in cities. Findings from this research also helped Bradford Council and local bus companies secure government funding for a green makeover to some of the region’s most polluting diesel buses. Children who live near busy roads in Bradford can now walk to school and play out without breathing in such high levels of pollutants.
For more information on the effects of the environment on health see Rosie’s talk at the 2015 BiB conference here.
To help us find out more about this click here to request on appointment for the Born in Bradford: Growing Up study