Living near a busy road increases a person’s chance of developing lung cancer by 10% and stunts the growth of children’s lungs by 14%.
These were the findings of a report from King’s College London, which analysed several health conditions of people living nearest to busy roads before comparing them to the rest of the population.
Previous research has tended to concentrate on deaths or hospital admissions, but this report also includes symptoms that affect a larger number of people such as chest infections.
One third (33%) of Londoners, around 3 million people, are estimated to live near a busy road. The report says that if air pollution in the capital is cut by one-fifth it could reduce the number of lung cancer cases by 7.6%.
It would also be 6.4% in Birmingham, 5.9% in Bristol, 5.3% in Liverpool, 5.6% in Manchester, 6.7% in Nottingham, 6% in Oxford and 5.9% in Southampton.
The findings have been released by a coalition of 15 health and environment NGOs, including ClientEarth, the British Lung Foundation, and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change which represents 650,000 health professionals in the NHS.
Andrea Lee, clean air campaigns and policy manager at ClientEarth, said: ‘Toxic air puts an unfair burden on peopleâ€™s lives. The good news is that solutions are available. The UKâ€™s first clean air zone in London is already having an impact. But much more needs to be done to help people across the country move to cleaner forms of transport.
‘To better protect peopleâ€™s health, the next UK Government also needs to raise the bar by making a binding commitment to meet stricter WHO guidelines by 2030. If politicians were not already convinced by the abundant evidence that air pollution seriously harms our health, could this new research be the tipping point?’
Dr Sandy Robertson, emergency medicine registrar at the Homerton University Hospital London and council member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, added: ‘Itâ€™s clear to see the effect of air pollution on the demand for emergency care in A&E waiting rooms. This study from Kings College quantifies the staggering scale of that link.
‘In the lead up to this General Election, itâ€™s essential that all political parties commit to supporting a legally binding target to meet WHO air quality limits by 2030.’
Download the report here