Figures released today by the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association, which promotes cleaner road fuels, are based on the published air quality statistics which show the impact of road traffic on local air quality. Levels of airborne oxides of nitrogen (NOx) were compared to the amounts inhaled from a cigarette to illustrate the serious impact of such priority pollutants on public health.
The news comes as Bowes primary school, north London, has limited its pupils to only 20 minutes' play outside, due to concerns over air pollution generated by traffic.
'The issue of air quality is a pressing one,' said LPGA's Andrew Ford. 'Public authorities must take the lead and as a matter of urgency investigate the wider use of cleaner road fuels.'
Mr Ford said that while new motor technology such as hydrogen was being developed, existing cleaner fuels should play a prominent part in fiscal policy.
'It's clear that road traffic pollution has a major impact on air quality and any measures to tackle this must be welcomed,' he added.
The association is staging a major conference on cleaner fuels at the DTI Centre in London on 5 November to discuss cleaner fuel alternatives.
Chaired by the AA motoring trust, participating companies include motor manufacturers such as Vauxhall and Ford, fuel suppliers such as Shell, BP, Mobil Exxon, Calor and Flogas, and cleaner fleet operators such as Safeway.
All local authorities must monitor their local air quality for stated p ollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM10) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) and, where limits are exceeded, take action by declaring an Air Quality Management Area or AQMA.
Among the most polluted areas measured was Marylebone Road in London, which recorded an annual average NOx mean of 105.16 microgrammes (ug)/m3 translated into one cigarette every 48 minutes - or one and a half packets of Rothman's Lights over a 24 hour period.
However, peak emissions here were truly startling - on 28 July, 1,912ug/m3 was recorded on one of the hottest days of the year - equating to 4 cigarettes a minute.
The LPGA has recently submitted its argument to government on extending the tax concession currently given to cleaner alternative road fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas and chancellor Gordon Brown is to announce his decision in the next few weeks.
Calculation was based on taking the stated annual mean NOx level - the 'ambient' level as an average - andtranslating this into the amount of NOx inhaled in that environment by an adult at rest - an average of 6 litres of air per minute.
This was then compared to a Rothman's Light cigarette, which produces a stated 29ug of NOx to calculate how many minutes of breathing at that location, on average, would equate to one cigarette.
So, for Marylebone Road:
Average adult at rest breathes 6 litres of air per minute.
Stated annual mean for NOx is 105.16ug/m3 or 0.1ug per litre.
So 0.1 x 6 litres = 0.6ug of NOx is inhaled each minute.
To inhale the 29ug for one cigarette would be 29/0.6 = 48 minutes.
24 hours/48 minutes = 30 cigarettes.