Could trees make air pollution worse?

Trees at the sides of the road can trap pollutants under their canopy and actually make air pollution in certain cities worse. That’s according to the National Institute for Health […]

By Jonny Bairstow

Trees at the sides of the road can trap pollutants under their canopy and actually make air pollution in certain cities worse.

That’s according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which has released draft guidance for the government to combat air pollution.

The UK public body, which gives independent health guidance to national and local government, said it stopped short of saying they should be cut down but advised local authorities and developers to manage their placement better.

It adds road humps to slow traffic could increase emissions by causing vehicles to accelerate and then decelerate repeatedly. The guidance said: “Ensuring motorists drive steadily at the optimum speed can reduce stop-go driving and reduce emissions.”

Other suggestions include moving living rooms to the back of houses away from busy roads, moving schools and young people to less polluted parts of towns and using hedges to shield cyclists from fumes.

It also emphasises the importance of educating drivers to turn their cars off instead of idling at waiting points.

Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth Air Pollution Campaigner, said: “While NICE is rightly saying schools and nurseries must be built away from busy roads, we must deal with the real crux of the issue and reduce air pollution levels, not just learn to avoid the worst of it.

“This is no time for tinkering around the edges – to deal with this public health crisis we must plan our towns and cities in ways which actually reduces traffic and gives people real alternatives to driving.”

The guidance goes to consultation today and could be adopted by July.

The UK Government has been ordered to create an improved air pollution plan within eight months to tackle the crisis.

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