HGV drivers have the highest overall exposure to air pollution and yet are being overlooked in the air quality debate, according to scientists at King’s College London.

Research by environmental charity Hubbub in cooperation with the college and The Times newspaper examined how poor air quality affected people living and working in London. It involved 10 participants using portable monitors that tracked their air pollution exposure levels.

Among them were an HGV driver, a construction worker and a construction site engineer.

Of all the participants, the lorry driver had the highest overall exposure to pollutants, more than six times higher than that of an office worker.

The British Safety Council is now working with the #AirWeShare campaign to put pressure on the government, regulators and employers to ensure ambient air pollution is recognised as an occupational health hazard and companies take action to reduce their staff exposure.

Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst at King’s College London, said: “Outdoor workers have been overlooked in the air quality debate, but this data shows that they are one of the most exposed groups, often spending their working lives near traffic and machinery.”

Matthew Holder, head of campaigns at the British Safety Council, said there was no excuse for inaction: “We can see from these results that if you work outdoors, drive or commute in a polluted area, your health is at risk.

“Meanwhile, employers are burying their heads in the sand and waiting to see if the government and the regulators are going to act.”

In January, Department for Work and Pensions minister Sarah Newton said the Health and Safety Executive did not regulate ambient air pollution and it was not undertaking any research into its effects.