UK’s air pollution ‘worst’ in Europe
AIR pollution is prematurely killing 13,000 people a year in Britain compared with fewer than 2,000 deaths a year from road accidents, a major study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has concluded.
Of these, fumes from cars and lorries are thought to be responsible for 7,000 deaths, aviation almost 2,000, power plants 1,700 with the rest coming from shipping, factories and domestic emissions.
But the report suggested that environment secretary for England Caroline Spelman may have been wrong to say earlier this year that the most likely cause of a major air pollution event at the London Olympic games in August would come from dirty air drifting in from the European mainland. The report calculated that about 60 per cent of the polluted air breathed by Britons comes from domestic sources, the rest coming from air crossing the channel.
The researchers estimated for the first time that air polluted outside Britain may kill 6,000 people a year prematurely, but dirty British air drifting the other way is killing 3,100 people a year in mainland Europe.
“One-third of premature mortalities in the UK caused by combustion emissions are due to emissions from other EU member states, and UK combustion emissions cause one third again as many early deaths in the rest of the EU as they do in the UK,” says the report.
The findings also pinpointed where most of the deaths happen: 2,200 a year in Greater London, 630 in both Greater Manchester and West Midlands and more than 1,000 across all Yorkshire and Humberside.
The study is embarrassing for the government which is coming under the international spotlight this summer ahead of the Olympics and the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Air pollution in London hit record levels last month in the heatwave and Britain already faces EU fines for consistently breaching air pollution laws.
Britain has some of the worst air pollution in Europe, but has consistently failed to meet targets and timetables to reduce both the quantity of soot in the London air (known as PM10s) and of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas emitted mainly from burning diesel fuel.
The authors of the MIT report proposed that car makers reduce the amount of black carbon emitted in car exhausts and try to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, but say that investment in public transport, or taking cars off the road altogether would be most effective.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good.
“There are some limited areas where air pollution remains an issue but that’s being dealt with by the air quality plans.” — The Guardian, London