Air pollution responsible for 4,000 London deaths a year

London Assembly claims up to 9% of deaths in London’s most polluted areas are attributable to air pollution and calls for greater action to protect public health and meet EU limits, writes Michael Holder

As many as 9% of deaths in London’s most polluted areas are attributable to air pollution, according to a London Assembly paper released today (10 December).

Official figures in the paper estimate that air particulates cause more than 4,000 extra deaths each year and £20 billion in health costs – twice the cost of obesity.

A London Assembly committee paper claims 9% of deaths in the capital’s most polluted areas are attributable to air pollution.

The findings come in the Health and Environment Committee’s Air Pollution issues paper, which refers to long-term health impacts linked to air pollution, such as lung and heart conditions, breast cancer and diabetes. However, research is still ongoing into both the short and long-term impacts of air pollution.

Official figures in the paper suggest that man-made airborne particles are attributable to the following percentage of deaths in different areas of London:

-    9% of deaths in the City of London
-    8.3% Westminster.
-    8.3% in Kensington and Chelsea.
-    8.1% in Tower Hamlets.
-    6.3% in Bromley.
-    6.3% in Havering.
-    5.6% on average in England.

Further action

The paper calls for further action to protect public health and prevent fines as a result of exceeding EU limits on emissions.

The paper states: “Generally, scientists estimate that every reduction in PM concentration results in a proportionate reduction in excess deaths, so there is a health benefit of progress towards or beyond the limit values, as well as the legal benefit of meeting the enforceable targets.”

It also recommends imposing stricter standards for diesel vehicles within London’s Low Emission Zone and increasing promotion of electric vehicles, walking and cycling.

Regarding buses, the paper suggests that Nitric Oxide emissions could be reduced by more than 70% retrofitting older buses with new technology.

Assembly member Murad Qureshi, chair of the Health and Environment Committee, said: “Air pollution is a problem in large cities worldwide, but London’s is among the worst of any European capital. These latest figures clearly show the impact these harmful pollutants are having: thousands of Londoners are dying early each year.

“The borough level figures should make for interesting reading for the Mayor and some boroughs whilst putting their public health strategies together. Hopefully they will give the problem of air pollution the emphasis it warrants.”

The paper comes just after the 50th anniversary of the London’s Great Smog, which lasted from Friday 5 December to Tuesday 9 December 1952 and is believed may have eventually been responsible for thousands of deaths.

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