SOUTHAMPTON City Council has backed a new report into the effects of air pollution, as it pushes towards a chargeable clean air zone.

The paper, published by the Yale School of Public Health, suggest that pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence.

The research was carried out in China, one of the worst polluted countries in the world, with 95 per cent of its population breathing in unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to a “significant” drop in test scores.

Now academics says that the observed effects are relevant for polluted cities across the globe, including Southampton.

“The health of residents in Southampton is of paramount importance to us and we are firmly committed to improving air quality in the city, which directly effects wellbeing,” said leader of the council Chris Hammond.

“This new research, in addition to a government report from last year, states that poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK.”

The city council current Clean Air Zone consultation suggests that commercial vehicles could be charged up to £100-a-day to enter the city, in a bid to lower emissions.

Cllr Hammond added:”Reducing emissions and air pollution now will have lifelong, lasting health and wellbeing benefits for the city’s population. The proposed introduction of a Clean Air Zone would help to protect public health, but the council are concerned that this should be done without unnecessarily burdening businesses, visitors and residents.”

Xi Chen, a member of the research team, said:” “Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge.

“But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate (the loss) for those, it may be a few years of education.”

He added: “We usually make the most critical financial decisions in old age.” Rebecca Daniels, from the UK public health charity Medact, said: “This report’s findings are extremely worrying.”

It comes after Cllr Hammond signed a joint letter with 16 other mayors and city leaders to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for tougher action on air pollution at a national level.

The letter, coordinated UK100, came after the country’s inaugural National Clean Air Summit in June.

It asks the Conservative PM to prioritise action on dirty air, calling for funding and policy commitments to tackle what the 17 leaders describe as the UK’s “growing air pollution public health crisis”. The letter calls for a modern Environment and Clean Air Act and national vehicle renewal scheme.

Labour councillor Hammond said: “Southampton City Council is firmly committed to improving air quality in our city.

“We’ll only solve this public health crisis by strong national leadership, which is why we support a joined up approach to improve air quality for all.”

A meeting is also set to be held on the zone on September 6. Starting at 6.30pm, it will be held at the Quaker Meeting House on Ordnance Road. Speakers will include Cllr Hammond, Liz Batten from Clean Air Southampton, and Jenny Bates from Friends of the Earth.

To take part in the consultation, visit: