Pollution from car exhausts causes asthma, dramatic new official research shows.
A massive study, backed by the Californian and US governments, has demonstrated for the first time that ozone, the main component of smog, can cause healthy children to develop the life-threatening condition. Top British scientists believe it has provided the "smoking gun" that finally links pollution to the disease.
The conclusion - which vindicates an Independent on Sunday campaign that began more than eight years ago - is likely to have an explosive effect on transport and health policy in Britain, which suffers from the highest incidence of asthma in Europe.
It comes as the Government's own chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, calls for a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel, a measure that would drastically reduce the pollutants that cause asthma and global warming. He says announcing a ban to take effect some years in the future would force companies to develop "green" cars running on electricity and hydrogen.
More than one in every seven children in the country now suffers from asthma - six times as many as 25 years ago - and, in all, five million Britons have the disease: 18,000 new cases are diagnosed each week, and 1,500 people die from it every year.
Yet the Government has done little to tackle the pollution now being identified as one of the causes of the epidemic. Ozone is excluded from national measures being implemented by local authorities to tackle contaminated air.
Scientists have long agreed that ozone exacerbates the disease in those who have it, and many have suspected that it causes it in the first place. …