UK deaths from air pollution as high as reported during the 1952 `Great Smog`
National campaign launched to tackle public health threat from this 'invisible killer'
Air pollution causes as many early deaths in the UK today as were reported during the 'Great Smog' of 1952.
29,000 people die prematurely each year, on average 11.5 years early, because of long term exposure to air pollution, latest Government figures show, nearly 5% of all annual UK deaths. Air pollution caused over 4,000 early deaths in London in 2008 – around the same number that died during the 'Great Smog'.
Worst affected are the young, the elderly or those with existing health problems. New research indicates that air pollution can trigger asthma, stroke and heart attacks and permanently stunt children's lung development.
Launching the Healthy Air Campaign today on the 55th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a coalition of national health, environment and transport charities, called on the Government to act to tackle this public health crisis. And it urged individuals and communities to make lifestyle changes to mitigate the effects of air pollution in their cities and towns.
James Grugeon, Chief Executive of Environmental Protection UK – Britain's oldest environment charity, which played a key role in bringing about the Clean Air Act in the 1950s, and leads the Healthy Air coalition – said the government needed a coordinated approach to air quality, linking action across departments to tackle the causes and mitigate the impacts of air pollution.
He said: 'The cars, trucks and buses on our busy streets are filling the air with dangerous levels of pollution. This invisible killer is taking too many people before their time and causing children life-long health problems.
'It has been 55 years since the Clean Air Act was brought in, and yet air quality is still a problem in many cities, as it was in the 1950s. The kind of pollution has changed but the impact on health remains. It shortens the lives of a huge number of people across the UK.'
'The Healthy Air Campaign is calling for full compliance with air quality laws. Its time for the government to get serious on this public health crisis.'
The campaign also called for individuals and communities to act by making healthy lifestyle choices and supporting calls for action, especially if they live in air pollution hotspots or send their children to schools that are close to busy roads.
Mr Grugeon said: 'We hope that the Healthy Air Campaign can inspire people to choose cycling or walking as an alternative to driving and call on government to get coordinated and finally implement workable and effective solutions to air pollution.'