Oxford Street Pollution
Oxford Street is the most polluted street in the world, according to scientists at King's College LondonReuters

The Environmental Audit Committee has warned that air pollution in the UK is causing a "public health crisis".

The EAC said air pollution kills nearly as many people as smoking does, and that new schools, care homes and hospitals should be built well away from major roads because of the danger.

There are an estimated 29,000 deaths in the UK from air pollution each year.

"There is a public health crisis in terms of poor air quality," said EAC chairperson Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North.

"There are nearly as many deaths now caused by air pollution as there are from smoking, so the main thing is we stop a new generation of children being exposed."

However, Whitehall has claimed to be "investing heavily" in clean air.

A government spokesperson said: "Clean air is vital for people's health and, while air quality has improved significantly in recent decades, we are investing heavily in measures across government to continue this, committing £2bn (€2.5bn, $3.1bn) since 2011 in green transport initiatives."

The EAC report blames traffic for 42% of carbon monoxide, 46% of nitrogen oxides and 26% of particulate (mineral dust, carbon and other chemicals) pollution in the UK. Such pollution is linked to cancer, as well as heart and lung diseases.

Nitrogen dioxide is known to exacerbate asthma as it causes an inflammation of the airways and reduces lung function.

The report states that pollutant-heavy cars, such as diesel-run vehicles, should be scrapped to cut emissions.