Greenpeace air pollution campaigners and medical professionals have blocked more than 800 Volkswagen staff from entering the company’s head office in Milton Keynes this morning.
Arriving at 7am, they barricaded the entrances with sick bay furniture and set up a diesel pollution clinic outside to offer advice and health checks to staff and members of the public.
Greenpeace is demanding Volkswagen commit to stop producing diesel cars and go 100% electric.
Mel Evans, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “As the UK’s biggest seller of diesel cars, Volkswagen is complicit in an air pollution crisis that’s filling up emergency departments and GP surgeries.
“Volkswagen sold us a lie about diesel being clean. Its diesel addiction is seriously harming people’s health.
“Volkswagen won’t meet with us and won’t listen. So today we’ve brought the truth about diesel to its doorstep.
“Volkswagen must face up to its responsibility for deadly air pollution and commit to end diesel production now.”
Aarash Saleh, 33, Doctor in respiratory medicine from Manchester, working in London, who is at the protest today, said: “Diesel pollution is causing horrendous suffering across the UK and storing up a lifetime of troubled health for our kids. If you could see it, diesel would be banned tomorrow.”
The peaceful blockade at VW’s UK head office comes as concerns are growing about the health impacts of air pollution.
A recent study found an “absolutely clear” link between episodes of high air pollution and spikes in hospital admissions and visit to GPs.
The impact of air pollution is particularly acute for children. High exposure to polluted air at a young age can cause chronic health problems that last a lifetime, with research showing negative effects for lung function, respiratory issues like asthma and even stunted lung growth.
Air pollution from cars and vans costs £6 billion in damage to health each year in the UK; equivalent to the entire budget of NHS Wales.
Levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the UK have broken legal limits every year since 2010 – and diesel vehicles are responsible for 90% of toxic NOx coming from roads.