Air pollution crisis: UK’s toxic air killing as many as smoking

Air pollution in the UK is causing a deadly “public health crisis”, responsible for almost as many deaths as smoking, a panel of MPs has warned.

The Environmental Audit Committee said in a report that new schools, hospitals and care homes should be built far away from major traffic routes due to the dangers of air pollution.

Speaking to the BBC, Joan Walley, the committee chairwoman said: “There is a public health crisis in terms of poor air quality.

“There are nearly as many deaths now caused by air pollution as there are from smoking, so the main thing is we stop a new generation of children being exposed.”

It is estimated that 29,000 deaths in the UK are caused by air pollution, the latest government figures reveal.

The report said that diesel fumes from traffic have become the most significant cause of air pollution.

Diesel vehicles pump out nitrogen dioxide into the air, which causes a range of respiratory problems.

The report said that road traffic is now the cause of 42% of carbon monoxide in the air, 46% of nitrogen oxides and 26% of particulate matter pollution.

The microscopic particles in exhaust fumes include several poisonous chemicals which lodge in the lungs and are linked with cancer as well as lung and heart diseases.  

The committee has drawn up a set of demands in order to tackle the crisis.

According to the BBC, these include:

The Met Office and BBC producing high pollution forecasts alongside ones for pollen and UV.

A national plan for “low emission zones” to tackle heavily polluting vehicles, like the one in London.

Changes to fuel duty to encourage low nitrogen dioxide vehicles as well as low carbon dioxide.

Financial incentives for alternative fuels.

Encourage walking and cycling as the “ultimate low emission” option

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The solution to pollution is on our web site
    But nobody seems to be interested!!

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  • The real problem is not traffic, but that we have a population which far too big and in certain areas far too dense (London). Even with best green practices a large population is going to cause excessive pollution.

    Yes reduce pollution with cleaner technology and practises but also tackle the problem of population size. If we don't then its likely nature will eventually do it for us!

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