uk fails to deal with air pollutionDid you know that as many people (4,000) died from air pollution in London in 2008 as died in the Great Smog of 1952? That is the conclusion reached by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in 'Air Quality: A follow up report.' Therefore, only smoking causes more premature deaths. In 1952, it was short-term exposure to heavy air pollution that caused the deaths. Today's air pollution deaths come from long-term exposure to PM2.5  pollution which consists of tiny soot particles coated with organic compounds that are inhaled deep into the lungs.

The EAC's inquiry was undertaken to assess how far government had implemented processes outlined in its November 2010 response to an earlier report. They slam government for failure to act on what is seen as a major public health crisis and single out London Mayor Boris Johnson for his failure to achieve acceptable air quality in London.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London (CAL) welcomed the report and said. 'No Parliamentary Select Committee can ever have published a more damning report of a Government's failure to protect its people from harm. Furthermore, CAL has found hard evidence that the Government has not considered the glaring socio-economic impacts of this invisible public health crisis.'

CAL notes the following air pollution crisis points:

  • Preliminary results for England show that poor air quality is associated with areas of low income, low employment, and lower educational attainment, with differences in exposure to air pollution between different ethnic groups. Indeed, the worst affected groups are exposed to up to 50% more nitrogen dioxide pollution than those least affected.
  • The European Commission granted the UK a temporary and conditional exemption till June 11 2011 to comply with daily PM10 limits in London. The UK had to amend its London air quality plan and submit it by 30th November. The report was submitted in June but the UK failed to consult, was challenged on this, and had to launch a consultation which closes on 6 January 2012. Clean Air in London concludes that the UK unlawfully submitted the plan to the EC.
  • Unlawful levels of nitrogen dioxide have been found in up to 75 marginal Parliamentary constituencies and 24 London boroughs in 2010.
  • Recent research has shown that living near roads travelled by 10,000 or more vehicles per day on average could account for 15-30% of all new cases of asthma among children
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) among adults aged 65 or older. In all the 10 cities studied in this research, 15-30% of exacerbations of asthma in kids, and acute worsening of COPD and acute CHD problems are down to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

Birkett continued 'Clean Air in London supports wholeheartedly the EAC's recommendations which include setting up a Cabinet Office lead Ministerial Group to oversee delivery of a new cross government air quality strategy. Only the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have the authority to respond to and accept the EAC's report and recommendations. They must do so urgently.'

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