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New report says UK air pollution linked to 40,000 early deaths a year

Wed 24 February 2016 | Back to news list

A new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) finds that around 40,000 deaths a year are linked to air pollution. ‘Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution’ says that the harm from air pollution is not just linked to short-term episodes but is a long-term problem with lifelong implications.
 
The report takes examples of the harmful effects of air pollution from right across an individual’s lifespan, from a baby’s first weeks in the womb through to the years of older age. Examples include, the adverse effects of air pollution on the development of the foetus, including lung and kidney development, and miscarriage; increases in heart attacks and strokes for those in later life; and the associated links to asthma, diabetes, dementia, obesity and cancer for the wider population.
 
As well as focusing on the impacts of outdoor pollution, the report highlights the often overlooked quality of air in indoor spaces. It says that some kitchen products, faulty boilers, open fires, fly sprays and air fresheners, can all cause poor air quality in our homes, workspaces and schools.
 
Among other suggestions the report authors calls on local authorities to act to protect public health when air pollution levels are high. The report says, for example, that when these limits are exceeded, local authorities must have the power to close or divert roads to reduce the volume of traffic, especially near schools.
 
It also says that air pollution must be effectively monitored so that central and local government can track exposure to harmful pollutants in major urban areas and near schools. The results should then be communicated proactively to the public in a clear way that everyone can understand.
 
Professor Stephen Holgate who chaired the report working party said: "We now know that air pollution has a substantial impact on many chronic long term conditions, increasing strokes and heart attacks in susceptible individuals. We know that air pollution adversely effects the development of the fetus, including lung development. And now there is compelling evidence that air pollution is associated with new onset asthma in children and adults. When our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death, illness and disability, it our duty to speak out."
 
NOTE: The LowCVP and the Clean Air Alliance (CAA) have joined forces on an initiative which aims to bring the climate change and air quality communities closer together and to help ensure that UK vehicle and transport fuel policy is most effectively oriented towards tackling these twin threats. The initiative will be launched at a Parliamentary Reception which follows a related seminar on Tuesday March 1. MORE DETAILS HERE.
 


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