London Eye Smog April 2015

Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London

A new study commissioned by the Mayor of London has shown that the health impacts of air pollution in the capital are much worse than previously thought, with 9,500 early deaths caused in London each year from exposure to air pollution. This is more than double the previous official figure and more than the number of deaths caused by smoking

The Mayor’s study looks at the effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a pollutant mainly produced by diesel vehicles. These are shocking figures and show just how urgently we need to reduce the diesel use in our most populated areas.

Outdoor air pollution is usually a combination of different types of pollutants but until now only the health effects of one type of pollutant (PM2.5) had been quantified. A study in 2010 for the GLA estimated that 4,300 early deaths were caused each year from long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution in London. The new study uses the most recent data available from 2010 and actually shows that the number of deaths attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5 has decreased from 4,300 to 3,500.

However, following increasing evidence over the past few years, for the first time the health effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been calculated and shown to be equivalent to 5,900 deaths each year. These figures are combined to give the new total of 9,500 early deaths each year caused by air pollution in London.

9,500 early deaths due to air pollution shows a failure at all levels of government. It also raises questions about what this means for the current official figure for the whole of the UK, where it’s estimated that 29,000 early deaths are caused each year just from exposure to PM2.5 pollution.

This study comes at a crucial time as the UK Government is working on new action plans to show how London, and 15 other zones in the UK, will meet legal limits for NO2 in as short a time as possible. These plans need to be completed by the end of 2015 and will include a period of public consultation, which will be a great opportunity for people across the UK to ask for bolder action to tackle this public health crisis.

What can you do?

  • Sign up to support the campaign and we will let you know as soon as the public consultation starts for the 16 action plans
  • Let your MP know about your air pollution concerns and encourage them to ask for more ambitious action from the Government
  • Read our policy calls to find out more about what Government could do

One Response to Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London

  1. […] I’m not dissing the judgment – far from it. Air pollution has been described by the World Health Organisation as a public health emergency. Yet it’s treated in most countries as a public health afterthought. Pollution is linked to heart attacks, strokes, lung and bladder cancers, low birth weight, poor memory and attention in children, low verbal IQ, faster cognitive decline among elderly people, and earlier onset of dementia. In the UK it is believed to cause between 40,000 and 50,000 deaths a year; in London it may be killing more people than smoking does. […]

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