Northampton road singled out for exposing nearby nurseries to 'dangerous' emissions

Heavy traffic has led to the rise in nitrogen dioxide around St James road.

Heavy traffic has led to the rise in nitrogen dioxide around St James road.

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Children along a congested Northampton road are being exposed to 'illegal and damaging' levels of air pollution, a report claims.

The road reportedly produces more than the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of diesel engines that inflames the lining of the lungs and raises the likelihood of developing respiratory problems.

Weedon Road, through the St James Area, has been identified as an area of air pollution management.

Weedon Road, through the St James Area, has been identified as an area of air pollution management.

A Guardian investigation found that Weedon Road, west of Northampton, was producing more than the legal limit for the 'dangerous' pollutant - and identified four schools or nurseries along it that could be exposed to the fumes.

Graham Croucher, chair of the residents association for St James, said: "There is not a shadow of a doubt that air pollution is a health concern for children.

"At picking up and dropping off times at schools, the air pollution in an area can soar."

Weedon Road reportedly exceeds the legal limit for producing nitrogen dioxide, which is more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Happy Hands nursery, in St James.

Happy Hands nursery, in St James.

There are four schools or nurseries within 150 metres of Weedon Road; Quinton House, Explore Learning Northampton, Happy Hands Day Nursery and Footsteps Daycare.

The report states: "Nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel traffic cause 23,500 of the 40,000 premature deaths from air pollution each year."

The St James' area, where Happy Hands Day Nursery is based, is already being monitored by the Northampton Borough Council as an area of concern for air pollution because of the road.

Mr Croucher said: "The roadworks have not helped. Idling cars create the problem, and we can expect up to 4,000 more cars in this area when the county council introduce their park and ride scheme from Sixfields.

Footsteps Day Nursery, in Northampton Town Centre.

Footsteps Day Nursery, in Northampton Town Centre.

"Really, the borough council can have very little impact on the problem. The problem arises from the county council's infrastructure and the borough council have to deal with the air pollution it causes."

A spokesperson from Northampton Borough Council said: “We are working towards a borough-wide low-emission strategy as this is the best means of ensuring that areas in need of attention receive it, and the whole borough benefits as a result.

“We recognise that traffic in St James can cause high emissions, we are monitoring this and will work in partnership with all concerned to ensure that we tackle it in the most comprehensive way.”

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “Our Weedon Road Smart Corridor scheme is a comprehensive project that will improve public transport provision, reduce congestion and improve air quality in the St James area of Northampton.

“The works we are carrying out will enable people to access to live, digital information in order to make better travel choices, whilst improving the infrastructure to improve highway capacity and journey times for all road users.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Chris Griffiths, professor of primary care and public health at Bart’s and the London School of Medicine, said: “The research on exposure to traffic fumes and children’s lung growth is pretty consistent. It shows that such exposure reduces lung growth, produces long-term ill health and can cause premature death. We should be outraged that we are exposing our developing children to these obvious problems.”