15/12/2011 11:41 GMT

Nurseries And Schools Near Polluted Roads 'Putting Children At Risk Of Asthma'

A report showing the close proximity of schools and nurseries to some of London's busiest roads has renewed calls for a campaign to combat air pollution, as a study revealed a direct link with children developing asthma.

Around half of schools and nurseries in Wandsworth are in "close proximity" to the most polluted and traffic-heavy roads in the capital, the Wandsworth Guardian reported. The findings have provoked outrage among the community as they are coupled with recent studies showing the busy roads pose a direct threat to children's health.

Roy Vickery, Green Party London assembly candidate for Merton and Wandsworth, told the paper: "The scandalous situation needs action from us all, particularly London's Mayor and local authorities."

A study conducted by Imperial College London and environmental research groups in the Netherlands, that was published in September this year and suggested poor air quality is "hitting the poorest hardest".

Separate research project Aphekom found those living - or attending school - near main roads in cities could account for up to 30% of all new cases of asthma in children.

Air pollutants are a proven irritant for asthma sufferers and can trigger potentially fatal asthma attacks.

5.4m people in the UK are affected by asthma and three people a day die from the condition. According to charity Asthma UK, 90% of deaths are preventable.

A spokesperson for Asthma UK said: "Traffic pollution is now known to cause asthma in children and it also makes symptoms worse in two thirds of people with the condition.

"There is evidence associating the development of asthma with residence near roads with heavy traffic and particularly with vehicles like diesel fuelled buses and lorries, which are the source of a lot of small particles of pollution which get into the lungs."

The EU objective is to "achieve levels of air quality that do not result in unacceptable impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment".

The UK is already failing to meet European Union targets of reducing air pollution.

As the House of Common's 2011 report on air quality states: "Over the past year the evidence of the damage caused by air pollution has grown stronger.

"The Government has failed to get to grips with this issue."

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said it had "robust measures" in place to reduce air pollution such as "walking trains" to take children to and from school.