Thames river crossings will 'risk children's health'
The proposed Silvertown Tunnel will increase rates of respiratory illness for east London's children, according to those fighting the plans.
Transport for London is looking for the cross river link between North Greenwich and Newham to relieve pressure on the overstretched Blackwall Tunnel.
But more roads will mean more traffic and pollution in an area that is already a blackspot, say campaigners.
Dr Ian Mudway, an air quality specialist at King's College London University is studying the effects of traffic congestion on children in schools near Blackwall.
He says the results suggest youngsters are suffering noticeably from exposure to air pollution.
Dr Mudway said: "Our data still has to be reviewed and published but I can tell you we have indications of very negative impacts on child respiratory health in relation to their exposure to traffic pollutants.
"Traffic is the main source of these problems."
Speaking at a meeting in Greenwich last week against the plans for the Silvertown Tunnel he said children would be hit hardest.
"The young spend more time outside, more time exercising outdoors breathing polluted air," he said. "Their lungs are immature and still growing so any damage persists and lasts for the duration of their lives.
"If you live within 500m of a major road it has a detrimental affect on respiratory health. Every child in Tower Hamlets lives within 500m of a major road.
"And if you look at the entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel you have huge estates. You couldn't trap air pollution better than you can within these buildings. And then you have new builds facing the road advertising for young families. I find that breathtaking."
Jenny Bates of green group Friends of the Earth, which organised the Greenwich meeting as well as one in Poplar a week before, cited a report by the Greater London Assembly which found more than 4,000 people in London died prematurely each year from exposure to long term air pollution - more than alcohol and obesity.
And while Transport for London wants crossings brought in to reduce congestion in the area, Ms Bates said it wasn't a solution. She called for tolls at Blackwall as well as a wider congestion charge.
"TfL is making assertions on how it would help ease congestion but it knows new road space generates new traffic and that would cause more congestion," she said.
"When Blackwall Tunnel was doubled in size the traffic more than doubled within a year at peak times."
TfL, meanwhile, says new river crossings are crucial to managing traffic and added 90 per cent of the 4,000 who responded to last year's consultation were in favour.
Its managing director of planning Michele Dix added: "Improving the highway network will help to reduce the time vehicles spend queuing in traffic and as a result should reduce vehicle emissions.
"The proposals eventually taken forward will also be subject to a full environmental assessment and further consultation."
An online petition against the Silvertown Tunnel at change.org has attracted over 350 signatures.