A leading professor has warned the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is the only way to dramatically stop Bradford’s children breathing in toxic and illegal levels of air pollution.

There are currently 500 respiratory deaths a year and 380 respiratory emergency attendances each week in Bradford.

Professor John Wright, director at the Bradford Institute for Health Research, is among those leading research into the harmful impact of nitrogen dioxide in the city.

It comes as worrying research from the Born in Bradford team uncovered how children's DNA can change by how close they live to a road, potentially shortening their ‘biological clock’.

“The quality of air in British cities, not just Bradford, has been a scandal for the last few years,” Professor Wright said.

“We’ve had illegal, dirty air far too long. The Clean Air Zone is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s the first time we’re going to protect Bradford from these invisible pollutants that are coming out of exhaust pipes.

“We know it increases your risk of heart disease but even brain diseases.

“By the blood tests we’ve been doing, even at a young age, we can see the toxicity of the air pollution changes DNA.

“The harm starts at birth or before birth.

“We’ve shown how air pollution is causing low birth weight, stunting of growth for pregnant mums and it’s causing asthma in children.

“The key message is this clean air zone is the most effective way of reducing the poison in our air.”

Discussing the concerns raised over the CAZ, he said: “I’m very sympathetic as we’ve been driving cars for many years. It’s like 40 years ago people said that smoking is good for your health. The evidence is overwhelming.

“It’s about our health but the health of our climate as well. 20 per cent of greenhouse gases are from vehicles.”

Bradford Council said the biggest improvements will be felt in inner city areas and around schools.

A Council spokesperson said: “The Government mandated Bradford to have a CAZ. They have asked to see reductions in pollution by up to 30 per cent by the end of the CAZ period.

“The CAZ will ensure Bradford meets the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide and pollution is reduced both inside and outside the zone.

“We’ve pitched many non CAZ schemes to Government to ask them to support us in cleaning up our air. They rejected every one of them, opting instead for a CAZ.”