How a study into children's health in Bradford could help combat asthma in the future. And former world champion Johnny Nelson meets womens boxing legend Barbara Buttrick.
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This week, the link between diesel fumes and asthma.
And the woman boxer who had to fight to
On tonight's programme, researchers looked at the
link between traffic pollution and asthma.
Could diesel fumes actually cause some people to develop asthma?
that his asthma is linked to pollution.
Also tonight, here in York, they've introduced
antipollution measures but over in Germany's screen city,
You have to buy a parking space and that will cost,
A world champion boxer meets another
world champion boxer who had to fight to be accepted.
I think, those days, they didn't want girls to play
You know, because girls don't do this and girls don't do that.
Could traffic pollution be causing children to develop asthma?
Certainly, pollution is something you can't get awa
Researchers have been to Bradford to study the link between asthma,
and emissions from diesel vehicles and they've talked to our health
You can barely see it but polluted air, mainly from traffic,
It's been linked to Alzheimer's, heart attacks, even cancer.
But the most common air quality ailment is asthma.
I've never been strangled but I can sort of related
Even though what happened to Cameron couldn't have been prevented,
there is a lot of people out there that if they don't
take their asthma seriously, this could happen to them too.
Inner city Bradford has both high levels of air pollution,
and a higher than average number of asthma sufferers.
So there's a strong chance the two are connected.
The numbers involved could mean pollution is actually causing
But so far no one's been able to confirm this.
Scientists have suspected it, parents have suspected it,
the evidence was never considered sufficient.
The challenge for scientists is to prove the link,
and to find out which elements of the cocktail of noxious gases
spilling out of this traffic may be triggering asthma attacks.
At this inner city Bradford playgroup, traffic's a part of life.
Bradford is quite a busy, built-up area and where we live
I don't drive. I walk everywhere.
So, I can't not go near a main road in the middle of Bradford.
Unfortunately, asthma's a part of life too.
Joanne's six-year-old son is seriously affected.
The hospital are trying to control it as best they can.
You think it's brought on something else, like the weather
Nobody's ever said to me that his asthma is linked to pollution.
If somebody did tell me that then, obviously,...
Scientists from Leeds and Barcelona are in Bradford to look
at whether vehicle emissions can cause asthma.
One of them is taking me for a walk as he measures pollution.
This machine detects ultra-fine particulate matter,
too small to see, but spilling out of vehicle exhausts.
We are seeing traffic queueing up here.
You can see the engines are working harder when you're driving up this
hill so actually it's probably going to be the traffic on the other
side of the road that's making more of the contribution.
When you see it there, over 100,000, is that bad for us?
These are the particles that go deep into your lungs.
If it's at all possible it would be better to avoid walking along very
The other thing I notice is you only need a bus to go
past and look at that, it jumped right up.
Yeah, well, most of the vehicles producing this pollution
Also, all the diesel cars that we have in the UK
A colleague has been feeding these readings into a computer.
We put all this information in our software that can estimate
the pollution concentrations over the network using the data.
What we end up with is something like this.
This is an air pollution map in Bradford that shows the red
is the highest and the blue is the lowest.
That's showing it is really concentrated
And then radiates out on the main roads.
So, where the traffic is, you get high concentrations
You can overlay these maps with locations of interest.
Like residents' addresses, for children you have health data on.
And effectively show how much risk somebody is exposed to.
Haneen now needs to find children who have been exposed to pollution.
But she also needs to spot, and make allowances for, other
She's going to need some really detailed medical histories.
And to get this level of information,
This city has become a hub of environmental research.
Thanks to a health study that started ten years ago
Born in Bradford is one of the largest research studies in UK.
What we've been able to do is track the health of families from children
being babies to children being aged eight to nine and we will continue
Today it's cognitive ability - the 12,000 children involved have
been tested and measured for many things throughout their lives,
not just about health, but about where they live.
We've done a lot of work Within the city looking
That's really powerful information that we can give.
Asthma is a disease that affects all ages -
around five and half million people in the UK.
It's like somebody has got hold of the windpipe
I've never been strangled but I could sort of relate it
to somebody who was getting strangled and gasping for breath.
Had a couple of asthma attacks where my wife's had
And she told me off because I didn't wake her up but I couldn't
Neil's asthma is now under control, but a significant number are not
so lucky, over 1000 people every year die of the disease.
Three years ago one of those was ten-year-old
He wasn't wheezing, he wasn't coughing.
He was just happy, bouncing around, crazy little Cameron, as normal.
I waved him off to his team, within 15 mins,
By the time the ambulance got to him, he was already
His mum and her partner have set up a charity in his memory,
delivering spare inhalers to primary schools.
to Cameron could not have been prevented,
There's a lot of people out there, if they don't
take their asthma seriously, this could happen to them.
Haneen's research is not yet complete - but preliminary findings
already suggest emissions from diesel cars may be to blame.
Exhaust pollutants, specifically linked to traffic,
for example nitrogen dioxide and black carbon,
A child could not have got asthma if they were not
exposed and that has a lot of implications, obviously.
The research results may prove useful.
In recent years it's been government policy to encourage diesel cars -
there were 12 million on the road as of last year.
But there are now calls for next month's new air pollution strategy
Local authorities also have a role to play.
Bradford and other West Yorkshire councils have agreed
It includes turning the county's most polluted hotspots
And this bit makes interesting reading.
There's a commitment to convert West Yorkshire's entire fleet
of buses to low emission standards within five years.
Using some of the Bradford information they've worked out this
will prevent around 500 children from developing asthma.
No consolation for those already affected.
I do feel quite angry about it, to be quite honest.
If something could be done, fantastic, but it might be too late.
And, of course, if you've got any comments about tonight's programme
or you've got a story you think we might like to cover,
you can get in touch on Facebook or on Twitter.
Later in the programme, she was known as the Mighty Atom.
We meet a Hull boxing legend you may never have heard of.
So, how can we reduce pollution for all of our benefit?
Here in York, there's a pedestrianised zone
like Stonegate, there are electric buses, there are park-and-ride
schemes and, yet, pollution levels are still above the recommended
Could we learn something from our European neighbours?
Chris Jackson has been investigating.
A normal day in York - thousands of motorists queuing their way
Some come to work and thousands more come
And all that influx of visitors comes at a cost.
The latest figures suggest that air pollution is contributing
People aren't dropping down dead in the streets.
But according to health experts, the long term impact,
particularly on those already in poor health,
We know that an estimated 30,000, minimum, maybe, 40,000 die across
the UK, of that proportion in York, were probably looking at somewhere
So, you know, an average of 100 people dying
in York from air pollution related causes.
I didn't think York was so badly affected by air pollution,
It has got a bit of a problem, to be fair.
I thought this was in the countryside.
But for asthmatics like Ruth Smith who lives
in nearby Leeds, poorer quality has an immediate impact on her health.
I'm conscious of the fact that I'm walking in between exhausts
and things like that and you can feel it on your chest.
I'm constantly covering up my face being conscious
That isn't necessarily as clean as what I'd like it to be
You actually see air pollution as a problem?
I can't tell you which patients are in the hospital because
they've had problems with air pollution but there will be some
where it's been a significant contributory factor.
When you're exposed to exhaust fumes, particularly the fine
particulates, then there is an acute risk to you if you have a background
of heart problems, lung problems, it significantly increases your risk
of having something like a heart attack or a stroke.
So, in your view, should we try and reduce air pollution.
Well, absolutely we should, both to aid people's normal
health and development when they are young
and for the elderly but also for the rest of us the risk of that
Today academics are testing air quality -
here in the pedestrian zone it's generally good -
but when they take their equipment to this idling van -
Yeah. That's smelly.
I don't really want to be standing in this.
We're up at 2000, 3000 particulate matter.
That's way above the safe level for exposure to diesel particulates
of 20 to 30 microgrammes per cubic metre.
But can we do more to avoid city centre pollution?
You can do small things like walk on the other side of the road
if you are walking past a queue of traffic, just by crossing over
the road you are exposing yourself to less particulates and less
chemicals in the air you can also walk down less busy streets.
York sees tackling air pollution as a high priority -
it has park and ride schemes, a fleet of electric buses
but the air here still breaches safety standards.
Air pollution is a serious problem because we are currently breaching
and we have three air quality management areas
where we have a legal duty to improve air quality.
So York is trying harder than most to
is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Europe.
The trams run like clockwork and only half of the City's
About the same size as York with a population around 200,000
the city here has introduced some strict policies to get
cars off its streets - it's also improved the air quality
Christophe Lang sold his car ten years ago -
I joined him on his daily commute back home from work by bike.
So it was an old car and when it broke we give it away.
So when it's raining and it's wintery,
the snow, there's wind, there's rain, what do you do?
If it's short way, I go by bike if it's a long way then I use
The Langs live in the Vauban suburb - nothing particularly
but look and listen a little closer - what's missing?
This is the greenest part of the Green City -
it's a former army barracks that's been transformed
into a suburb - and they've planned it in such a way that residents
With speed limits set to walking pace - they've
also introduced a novel, if not pricey way
If you want to own a house that's fine -
but if you also want to own a car,
you have to buy a parking space and that will cost,
Do many people have a car then in this part of town?
Not so many, no because, and that was the idea
from the very beginning that this is an excellent opportunity
for people to explore life without a car.
Do we know what proportion of people in Vauban own a car then?
Yeah, it's much fewer people owning a car than average
in the rest of Freiburg, it's about half the number.
The ratio of cars per 1000 inhabitants is 165.
None of this would have been possible without political pressure
and huge investment from the local council.
Do you have any evidence that by taking some of the cars
out the city that pollution, air quality is improved in the city?
We have good results in the last ten years in Freiburg we reduced
So what lessons do you think we could learn from you?
Two big factors, one is you have to have pressure to change something
if you don't feel pressure to change you will never change anything.
Secondly, you have to have alternatives.
Now you might expect self-proclaimed petrol head Bernd Obrecht to be
I use it only for special reasons I normally I take
So do you agree with the policy of trying to persuade people
It's the right way but I think they should take it a bit harder.
Pollution is still big in Germany every year 40,000 people
are dying of pollution and that is too much -
so my heart is for cars and my brain says we have to change it.
So it seems there is a real determination
to improve air quality here in Germany -
but back in the UK - are we prepared to pay
through the nose for the privilege of keeping our cars.
If you want to own a house, that's fine.
But if you want to own a car, you have to pay for a parking space.
Do you think that would be OK over here?
I don't think the culture here is ready for that.
You might as well get a taxi everywhere then.
So still a long way to go before we follow the Germans' lead -
but with growing pressure to tackle air pollution in our
towns and cities - doing nothing is not an option.
She trained in the same gym as Muhammad Ali -
and entered Florida's Boxing Hall of Fame.
same gym but many people, even in Barbara Buttrick's home city
We sent Johnny Nelson, the former world
To become the best boxer in the world takes commitment.
And as an undefeated champion, I know how hard
But for one fighter, the toughest battle was just trying
But Barbara Buttrick went on to become the world's
first women's boxing champion - and trained in the same
Under five foot tall - she was known as the Mighty Atom.
She now lives in Miami Beach - but she grew up in Yorkshire.
Back in those days they didn't want girls to play soccer.
It was girls don't do this and girls don't do that.
Now 87, it's more than 70 years since Barbara Buttrick
fell in love with boxing, living in Cottingham, near Hull.
On my bedroom wall, as a kid, I had all boxers.
So I bought myself a harness thing, that you put a football in and made
But an article inspired her to make it her career.
Your friend's mother gave you some newspaper to clean your boots.
That's the newspaper clipping and it tells of Polly Burns,
who travelled with the boxing booths.
I thought if she can do it, so can I.
but boxer by night, Barbara headed for London to find
I think all this talk about girls not boxing is old-fashioned.
Girls aren't the delicate flowers they used to be.
In fact Barbara's boyfriend was her trainer -
And at Mickey Wood's gym in London, she finally found
But you've still got that fight in your eye.
Soon, Barbara was making headlines - though none of them very positive.
The criticism. Did it bother you?
Mickey Wood says "we made the front page again,
I said but "yeah look what they're saying."
But in 1940s Britain, opinions like that were nothing out
It was seen as something that was on a par with getting drunk
and with gambling and with prostitution and it was
Why do you think there was such a strong reaction
It goes with being big, with being strong, with being brave.
All these things which make up our ideal of masculinity,
but femininity is not made up in those ways, so for Barbara
to have boxed was seen as threatening, because boxing
is associated with all the things that go with being a real man.
So she took to fighting any woman who'd challenge her,
in travelling fairground boxing booths.
Nobody would encourage it and they were so down on it
I guess they put the other girls completely off.
You could have easily decided to play it safe and get a job.
So fed up of fairgrounds, Barbara searched further afield
for opponents - and that took her to America.
Barbara travelled from state to state -
There was one fight that I lost with Jo-ann Hagan.
And in 1957 came the moment she'd dreamt of -
she finally got a professional licence and beat Phyllis Kugler
to become the world's first women's boxing champion.
It's nice to know you're the best in the world isn't it?
The title brought her to the epicentre
of the boxing world - the place where Angelo Dundee
Today the Fifth Street Gym's in a new building -
I see pictures on the wall of Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali.
You were here when these guys were here?
Muhammad Ali was just Cassius Clay then.
He was very confident of himself and very showy.
But Barbara also met legends like Rocky Marciano's
fighters like Sonny Liston and Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee.
Did Angelo give you any words of advice?
We talked quite a bit and he liked the way I boxed
as if it's nothing to you, but these are the history makers.
And it's still a place where world champion hopefuls train.
Antonio Tarver is a former light heavyweight and
cruiserweight titleholder - and an admirer of Barbara.
I can only imagine the things she's seen, witnessing the greatness.
I'm sure she'll probably have a few moves she could teach me right now!
In 1960, Barbara retired - having won 30
But she didn't say goodbye to boxing.
She set up the Women's International Boxing Federation and gave women
And in 2012 she came to London to watch women box for Olympic
medals for the first time in history -
among them, two times gold medallist Nicola Adams.
It's because of women like her it's possible for me to box today.
Women's boxing wasn't really accepted, so I can't imagine how
hard it must have been for her to keep pushing,
keep training and try to be taken seriously.
So I have to say a big than you to Barbara for paving the way.
I never thought it would develop to the point it has now.
Getting into the Olympics, I was very pleased about that
and now it's very much an accepted thing.
became the only woman boxer to ever be inducted into the Florida
She's like the coolest grandma.
She pioneered the way for other women boxers.
This month, she's coming back to visit Hull.
And in the gym where Olympic Gold Medallist Luke Campbell
trained, they're just as proud of Barbara.
And she's passing her knowledge on to the next generation.
You'll have to be very cunning with that.
It's very easy to get feet your feet stepped on.
I think it's really courageous, brave.
She put herself out there, knowing there isn't really anyone
girls and boys boxing, but you get the odd coaches
But she's shown us they do and they do well.
If I was a kid today, I'd be in my glory.
Just pack my gym bag and walk off the same as anybody else,
When Barbara put on her first pair of boxing
gloves more than seven decades ago, she could only dream that girls
But it could never have happened without Barbara leading the way.
And Barbara will be a guest at the International women of the world
festival in Hull this coming weekend. That's it from us this
week. We are not here next week but joiners in two weeks' time for
Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire presented by Paul Hudson.
We look at how a study into children's health in Bradford could help combat asthma in the future, and former world champion Johnny Nelson meets womens boxing legend Barbara Buttrick.