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People driving cars in Portsmouth have been urged to remember the phrase ‘Cough Cough, Engine Off’ when queueing in traffic, waiting at traffic lights or picking someone up.

Portsmouth City Council is working to raise awareness of the dangers of keeping your engine idling unnecessarily and is asking drivers to switch off their engines when they are not moving, for example when waiting at traffic lights or in a traffic jam, to help improve air quality in the city.

Air pollution is bad for your health, shortens lives, and affects people at every age. The three main conditions associated with air pollution are breathing conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer. It is also associated with dementia, low birth weight and type 2 diabetes.

Groups that are more affected by air pollution include older people, children, people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, communities in areas of higher pollution, such as close to busy roads and low-income communities.

There are small changes everyone can make to reduce their exposure to air pollution. As well as switching your engine off when queuing these also include:

  • cycling, walking, riding a rental e-scooter or catching the bus for short journeys
  • choosing quieter routes with fewer vehicles when you choose to leave the car at home
  • opening your windows when you clean, do DIY, smoke or do other activities that release pollutants directly into your home
  • reducing how much you burn in your home and garden

If you are expecting to be stationary for at least 30 seconds it is worth switching off your engine.

Cllr Lynne Stagg, cabinet member for traffic and transportation at Portsmouth City Council said: “Turning your engine off when you’ve stopped at the lights or are waiting to pick someone up is an easy habit to get into and can make a huge difference to air quality. We know that the most vulnerable members of our community are more affected by poor air quality and we need to protect everyone in Portsmouth from preventable illnesses.

“I recently met some wonderful young eco champions who attend Milton Park Primary School and I was in awe of their dedication to the environment and cleaner air. I hope they, and children across Portsmouth, will see our signs and remind their parents that next time you’ve stopped for a short amount of time at lights or in traffic remember ‘Cough Cough, Engine Off’.”

Wendy Fowler, headteacher at Milton Park Primary School, said: “I’m so proud of the Milton Park Primary School Eco Champions who are at the forefront of making our school, and the wider community, green. They look at recycling, saving energy and promoting awareness of the environment. They are passionate about making a difference and ensuring their voice is heard, and listened to.”

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