Long-term exposure to air pollution is killing one in 19 people in the UK, according to researchers at Centre for Cities.
They’ve published their annual study, Cities Outlook, which includes a major focus on toxic air and how it’s impacting on city and town dwellers across the UK.
The estimates vary significantly depending on location. For example, the proportion of deaths related to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is highest in cities and large towns in southeastern England such as Slough, Luton and London, where an estimated one in 16 people die from exposure.
Meanwhile, cities in Scotland and northern England see the smallest proportion of PM2.5-related deaths. Aberdeen is the city with the lowest proportion, at one in 33.
Their research found that 62% of roads monitored in UK cities are exceeding the WHO’s annual PM2.5 guideline of 10μg/m3.
In 19 cities, all monitored roads are breaching the WHO guideline potentially exposing 14 million people to the pollutant on a daily basis.
The report says transport is a significant contributor, but 50% of the PM2.5 toxins generated in cities and large towns come from sources such as wood-burning stoves and coal fires.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: ‘More than half of people in the UK live in cities and large towns. And while they offer people good employment and lifestyle opportunities Cities Outlook 2020 shows that they also having a damaging effect on their health, with air pollution killing thousands of people living in cities every year.
‘Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action. Cities should be at the centre of the fight against toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood-burning stoves. ‘
‘To help the government needs to provide extra money and introduce stricter guidelines. The deadly levels of polluted air we’re breathing are legal across most of the UK. This needs to change. As a matter of urgency the government should adopt WHO’s stricter guidelines around PM2.5 emissions. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths.’
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