Pollution Is Killing 50,000 People In The UK Every Year

UK is fairing much worse than Europe and the US.
  • 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015 caused by pollution
  • Dirty air and polluted water were biggest contributors
  • Greatest number of deaths occurred in India and China
  • Deaths caused by diseases including heart conditions, cancers and strokes
  • In 2015 pollution was responsible for x3 as many deaths as AIDS, TB and malaria

Pollution is killing 50,000 people a year in the UK, a report in the Lancet has found.

The figure constitutes 8% of all deaths and puts the UK in 55 place out of the 188 countries measured – higher than the US and many European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Denmark.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “Air pollution is reaching crisis point worldwide, and the UK is fairing much worse than many countries in Western Europe and the US.

Air pollution over London (file picture dated 2015)
Air pollution over London (file picture dated 2015)
PA Wire/PA Images

“A contributing factor could be our dependence on diesel vehicles, notorious for pumping out a higher amount of poisonous particles and gases. These hit people with a lung condition, children and the elderly.

“The Government should act immediately by using the Budget to amend the tax system to stop incentivising diesel vehicles and finally commit to a new clean air act.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These figures show the scale of the problem in London and across the UK.

“Our capital’s toxic air is a public health crisis and the Mayor has made cleaning it up one of his key priorities.”

The deaths are largely through the non-infectious diseases pollution causes including heart conditions, strokes and lung cancer, according to the large international study.

Almost all pollution-related deaths globally - around 92 percent - are in poor or middle-income countries, the research found. And in rapidly industrialising countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar, pollution is linked to as many as a quarter of all fatalities.

“Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge – it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and wellbeing,” said Philip Landrigan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the United States who co-led the study.

The study found pollution was linked to around nine million deaths worldwide in 2015.

Dirty air - caused by everything from transport and industry to indoor fires - was the biggest contributor linked to 6.5 million deaths, it said.

The next biggest was polluted water that spread gastrointestinal diseases and parasitic infections and killed 1.8 million people.

The greatest numbers of deaths linked to pollution in that year were in India with 2.5 million, and China with 1.8 million.

The research, conducted by about 40 international scientists, used data from the Global Burden of Disease study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It was published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday.

A spokesperson for Khan said: “The poorest Londoners are often exposed to the worst air quality and the Mayor has taken bold steps to tackle this, including introducing the toughest emissions standard in the world when the T-charge comes into force on Monday, 23 October.

“However, he recognises that more support is required and is lobbying government to match his ambition by introducing a Clean Air Act fit for the 21st Century and a targeted diesel scrappage fund to help ordinary people and businesses.”

On Monday Khan will introduce a £10 ‘Toxicity Charge’, applicable in the congestion charging zone to petrol and diesel cars that don’t meet minimum exhaust emission standards.

Speaking in February, he said: “It’s staggering that we live in a city where the air is so toxic that many of our children are growing up with lung problems. The T-Charge is a vital step in tackling the dirtiest diesels.”


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