Early findings from a study underway at the Centre for Paediatrics at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry indicates that the lung capacity of 8- and 9-year-olds is 5% worse in London than the national standard, probably as a result of the air particles created by traffic pollution.

The PM10 particles, or "particulates," are formed in vehicle exhaust and are smaller than the thickness of a single hair. 203 children from all areas of London participated in these tests that spanned several years.

Provisional data from 149 children indicate that 11 have lung capacity that is 80% or less than the national figure. These numbers will increase the pressure on the UK over Britain's failure to follow European Union air quality regulations. The EU requires that PM10 levels have to stay below 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

The new research by Lancaster University is now indicating that the PM10 levels may be even poorer than official numbers show. Professor Barbara Maher stated to BBC News that: 'We're surrounded by this invisible mist of these millions of toxic particles - you can't see them but we know, we've measured them, they're here. When we do our leaf magnetic measurements, our research shows that down at small child height the concentrations - the number - of these very fine particles is sometimes twice the current EU regulation standard.'