Stuart Jeffery

Health Impacts

It has been described as an invisible killer. We obviously need air to breathe but when that air is polluted then it impacts on our health. A Lancet study shows that 8% of UK deaths are attributable to pollution equating to 50,000 people each year or 140 every day, this 2017 study is superseded by research from the Max Planck institute published in the European Heart Journal which put the figure at 64,000 or 98 per 100,000 population or 175 people every day. This figure is close to the number killed by smoking.

And it doesn’t seem to just be a long term contributor to early mortality. A study by Kings College London on just nine cities showed that high pollution days triggered an additional 124 cardiac arrests, 231 strokes and 193 admissions for childhood asthma.

Air pollution has been linked to cardiac disease, strokes, respiratory disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, lower IQ , kidney disease , ADHD , and potentially every organ in the body . The WHO estimates around 8 million deaths worldwide as a result of air pollution.

It is one of the biggest killers.

The statistics are frightening.

In 2019 Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “This is a health emergency. As these figures show, air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks.”

According to the UK government, the “cost of health impacts of air pollution was likely to exceed estimates of £8 to 20 billion” . There is even a government committee that studies the health impacts, COMEAP.

Outside of the UK the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine of South Africa, Brazil, Germany and the United States of America are calling for a “Global Compact” – a call to action, to tackle air pollution .

To give some specifics, the Kings College London study highlighted:

      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 87 cardiac arrests each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London can contribute to 81 more out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 144 emergency hospital admissions for stroke each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London may contribute to 230 hospital admissions for stroke each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London may contribute to 306 strokes each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 74 hospital admissions each year for asthma in people aged below 14.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 33 hospital admissions each year for asthma in adults.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 7,927 fewer children with low lung function each year.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 390 lung cancer cases.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth would result in 306 fewer lung cancer cases each year.
      • In London on high air pollution days, 142 more children with asthma experience asthma symptoms than on lower pollution days.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 144 babies born underweight each year.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth would result in 138 fewer babies born underweight each year
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 654 hospital admissions each year for respiratory disease.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 153 hospital admissions each year for cardiovascular disease.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 821 coronary heart disease cases.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 1,885 fewer cases of coronary heart disease each year.
      • Air pollution may contribute to 4,067 more asthmatic children that live near busy roads in London experiencing bronchitic symptoms each year.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth could contribute to 3,685 fewer asthmatic children with bronchitic symptoms each year.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 1,598 cases of a chest infection (acute bronchitis) in children.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 3,683 fewer children with a chest infection (acute bronchitis) each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 136 hospital admissions each year for COPD.
      • Across the other nine cities in the study: Bristol, Derby, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton:
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days are responsible for 37 more cardiac arrests outside hospital than lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 137 more people to hospital for stroke than lower air pollution days.
          • An extra 50 children are hospitalised with asthma on days where air pollution is high compared to days where air pollution is low on average each year.
          • An extra 35 adults are taken to hospital with asthma on days of high air pollution compared to days with lower air pollution.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 1897 fewer children with low lung function each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 158 fewer lung cancer cases each year.
          • On high air pollution days, 90 more children with asthma experience asthma symptoms than on lower pollution days.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 384 more hospital admissions for respiratory disease each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 613 more people to hospital for respiratory disease than lower air pollution days.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 93 more hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 169 more people to hospital for cardiovascular disease than lower air pollution days.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 432 fewer cases of coronary heart disease each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 917 fewer asthmatic children with bronchitic symptoms each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 798 fewer children with a chest infection (acute bronchitis) each year.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 179 more hospital admissions for COPD each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 265 more people to hospital for COPD than lower air pollution days.

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