Air pollution hanging over London, seen from Greenwich PHOTO CREDIT: STEFAN ROUSSEAU PA
LONDON: Air pollution kills nearly as many people as smoking in Britain each year, new figures have shown. Although it was previously thought that emissions were responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the UK, new figures suggest it is closer to 64,000, just 18 percent less than the 78,000 deaths caused by tobacco.
A further 29,000 deaths in Britain were also linked to air pollution which exacerbated other conditions such as cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. Globally, dirty air from vehicle exhausts, factories and power plants causes more deaths than smoking, accounting for 8.8 million deaths a year, compared to the 7.3 million people that die from inhaling smoke.
Co-author Professor Thomas Munzel, from the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, said, “Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.” In a new study published in European Heart Journal, scientists used an updated modelling technique to calculate how the atmosphere and weather interacts with industry, traffic and agriculture, and mapped it against population data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In Europe alone the death toll was found to be 790,000 twice the previous estimate. The average lost life expectancy of someone dying in Britain because of air pollution was found to be 1.5 years, while across Europe it was 2.4 years.
In Britain, 98 deaths in every 100,000 can now be attributed to inhaled pollutant chemicals, according to the research, while in Europe the figure was Europe 133 per 100,000 deaths, more than one in 1,000.