SCIENTISTS are claiming air pollution may be responsible for nearly 40 per cent of childhood asthma cases in Bradford following recent studies.

International scientists used computer simulations to assess the impact of exposure to irritant gases called nitrogen oxides in the city.

They found that up to 38 per cent of all annual cases of childhood asthma in Bradford may be attributable to air pollution.

Pollution from road vehicles alone was linked to 24 per cent of cases.

Dr Haneen Khreis, who led the research while working at the University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies, said: “Overall rates of childhood asthma cases in Bradford are higher than the national average as were emergency hospital admissions for asthmatic children under 16 years of age.

“Traffic-related air pollution is a real concern to the community.

“Our team’s previous research has shown that children exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have a higher risk of developing asthma.

“Quantifying the number of childhood asthma cases that are directly attributable to traffic-related air pollution has not been done in the past and as we show now, a significant portion of cases is largely preventable.”

Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Lib Deb, Eccleshill,) who sits on the environment and waste management overview and scrutiny committee said he was not surprised by the figures.

“This very study is the reason I have been lobbying for “no idling” zones outside schools, medical centres, hospitals and play areas across the district.

“I brought a motion to full council in January asking these to be brought into force but a Labour amendment was passed stating it would cost too much money and they were instead carrying out investigations.

“The council really has to start taking action. Children are right down at the level of the exhausts and the proof is there that they are causing serious health issues.

“The evidence is stacking up and I will certainly keep pushing for something to be done.”

Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber Friends of the Earth campaigner said: “Bradford’s rates of childhood asthma are a chilling reminder that air pollution is a public health crisis, and it is our children that are bearing the brunt of it.

“As road traffic is a major source of air pollution we need to see measures urgently put in place to help people out of private cars and into cleaner alternatives.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Bradford Council has led the way on taking action to improve air quality in our district.  We were one of the first local authorities to adopt a Low Emission Strategy in 2013 and we led on the creation of a West Yorkshire Low Emission Strategy in 2016.

“Our work has included investment in sustainable transport measures, enabling more people to walk, cycle or use public transport.

“Through planning guidance we have required electric vehicle charging points to be included in all new housing and business developments, with more than 5,000 charging points included in planning permissions over the past five years.

“We are also taking steps to reduce emissions from vehicles. In 2014, 25 buses, 11 operating in the city centre and 14 on the Manningham Lane corridor were successfully retrofitted. Retrofitted buses show a real world 95 per cent reduction in Nitrogen oxide emissions.

“We have also been part of a successful joint bid through West Yorkshire Combined Authority which will see another 62 buses retrofitted around Bradford’s Inner Ring Road.

“There is also an on-going study looking at how taxi emissions in the district can be reduced”.

The West Yorkshire Low Emissions Strategy, 2016 to 2021, developed through collaboration between local authorities of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield, alongside the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Public Health England, aims to tackle improving air quality throughout West Yorkshire by developing individual air quality actions plans for air quality management areas and make annual reports.

In the scientific study out today, computer models allowed the team to chart how much air pollution was present in Bradford and how much of it could be traced to road traffic.

The findings, reported in the journal Environment International, shed light on the reasons why rates of childhood asthma have soared in the UK since the 1950s.

Britain has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world, with an estimated one in 11 children suffering from the lung condition.

Professor John Wright, director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, said: “This important study adds to the overwhelming evidence that air pollution is harming our children.

“The good news is that we can all save lives by driving less and using cleaner fuels.”

Major sources of air pollution in the Bradford area include traffic, industry, domestic and commercial heating, and to a lesser extent diesel trains and aircraft, said the researchers.