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Failure to act has led to thousands of air pollution related deaths

The UK Government could have avoided thousands of deaths in 2019 had it acted to reduce air pollution, according to new figures from the European Environment Agency.

According to the analysis, in 2019 fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for more than 33,000 deaths annually in the UK and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was responsible for 5,750 deaths. 

The UK was in the top five European countries with the most premature deaths resulting from both PM2.5 pollution and NO2 pollution.

Half of these deaths from PM2.5 could have been avoided if the UK had followed the latest recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

black and white boat on water near city buildings during daytime

The country’s new Environment Act has just been passed but campaigners have warned that the UK has missed an opportunity to follow WHO guidelines for PM2.5.

Andrea Lee, clean air campaign manager at ClientEarth said: ‘The world’s leading experts have made it clear that there is no level of air pollution that’s safe to breathe – and this is why our government must be doing all it can to keep our exposure as low as possible.

‘That starts with reflecting the best possible science in the law. The current legal limits for air pollution just don’t cut it. We need to see the WHO guidelines reflected in legislation as soon as possible, to protect us and our children. The air we breathe today shapes our lives forever.”

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