Building new schools, hospitals and care homes next to air pollution hotspots should be banned, according to MPs.
The Environmental Audit Committee has warned air pollution is a “public health crisis” and is causing nearly as many deaths as smoking.
Its report suggests young people face suffering lung damage as a result of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is emitted from motor engines.
The Committee is calling on the Government to “urgently” roll out Low Emission Zones (LEZs) across the country in a bid to reduce inner city pollution.
LEZs, which allow local authorities to control vehicle emissions, have so far been introduced in London.
The report suggests existing schools next to busy roads to be fitted with air filtration systems and a scrappage scheme for diesel cars to take the most polluting vehicles off the road. Around 29,000 deaths are estimated to be caused annually as a result of air pollution.
The Committee criticised the Government for failing to act on past recommendations.
Chair Joan Walley MP added: “It is unacceptable that another generation of young people growing up in our towns and cities could have their health seriously impaired by illegal air pollution before the Government brings this public health crisis under control.
“Ministers must pluck up the political courage to take the potentially unpopular decisions necessary to get the most polluting vehicles off the road and encourage more people to walk, cycle or take public transport.”
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) however insisted the government is investing “heavily” on air quality and claims it has “improved significantly” in recent decades.
A spokesperson added: “We continue to support local authorities in identifying the best solutions for their area and sharing best practice. Government further supports these efforts through our Air Quality Grant Scheme. We will be responding to the report fully in due course.”