NEWS

Air Pollution Contributes To 40,000 Early Deaths Every Year, Report Suggests

23/02/2016 10:32 | Updated 23 February 2016

Air pollution including traffic fumes, tobacco smoke and indoor pollution caused by spray deodorants, candles and cleaning products could all be contributing to roughly 40,000 early deaths each year, a new report suggests.

In their latest report, health experts from the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health say that car emissions have not been controlled properly. Meanwhile the effects of indoor air pollution have been overlooked in previous research.

Air pollution can cause cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and lung cancer, which can all prove fatal.

Experts say it is essential that policy makers consider the effects of long-term exposure "on our children and the public purse".

car fumes

While external pollution is to blame for many early fatalities, researchers say that the health effects of indoor pollutants should also be considered.

It is estimated that across Europe, indoor air pollution may have caused or contributed to 99,000 deaths.

Common household products including air fresheners and cleaning products can release chemicals that evaporate into the air. These can then mix with other indoor pollutants.

Indoors, tobacco smoke is probably the most serious cause of harm. But there are also a number of other pollutants which can cause health issues.

Formaldehyde vapour, which can be emitted by certain furniture, furnishings, fabrics, glues and insulation, can cause irritation of the lungs.

Meanwhile heating and cooking appliances can release particulates and nitrogen oxides, which experts say can damage the lungs and/or heart.

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Biological materials around the home can also cause harm. These include animal dander (microscopic flecks of skin), house dust mites, mould and mildew.

"From this limited review of the health effects of indoor pollutants, it has been shown that they cause, at a minimum, several thousands of deaths per year in the UK, and are associated with healthcare costs in the order of tens of millions of pounds," says the report.

"A more systematic approach to the quantification of the effects of indoor air pollution would be beneficial, not least as this is where people in the UK spend most of their time."

"We know that those with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and older people are particularly at risk," the report continues.

"However, researchers are finding that air pollution may be associated with a much wider range of health conditions. For example, the report considers the evidence for effects of air pollution on diabetes and neurological disease, as well as how exposure during pregnancy may be associated with low birth weight and pre-term births."

They say more research is needed to characterise the impacts of pollution, "but there is no doubt that the health effects of air pollution are significant".

Professor Stephen Holgate, asthma expert at Southampton University and chairman of the reporting group, told the BBC we all have a part to play to cut environmental pollution.

He added: "We can't see it, smell it or taste it, which is why people do not necessarily think we have a problem."

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