Just living in London can kill you, according to new data presented by King’s College. The study indicates that almost 9,500 people die each year from exposure to air pollution over extended periods of time – that’s more than double the number previously thought. While all air pollution is potentially harmful to human health, researchers pinpoint two main pollutants behind the premature deaths: PM 2.5s and the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
NO2 is created by the exhaust of diesel cars, lorries (trucks), and busses and affects lung capacity and growth, The Guardian notes. London, along with Birmingham and Leeds, have been in violation of European Union safety limits of the gas, so the Greater London Authority and Transport for London commissioned the study to determine just how many people are harmed by NO2.
Recent legal action led to a Supreme Court ruling mandating that these cities publish a clean-up plan by the end of the year. In 2008, 4,267 premature deaths were attributed to PM2.5s and NO2. However, the new data suggests numbers ranging from 4,000-5,000 deaths per year may have been wrong since 2010.
While some of the deaths related to PM2.5s were from particulates created outside of city limits, most of the NO2 deaths were directly related to diesel emissions and other sources in the city. London Mayor Boris Johnson has been trying to eradicate NO2 emissions since seeing a report in 2010 showing the high amount of NO2 on Oxford Street, mostly due to busses. However, his radical plan to scrap diesel vehicles was not welcomed.
London is trying to pioneer anti-air pollution methods, such as an ultra low emissions zone that high polluting vehicles will have to pay 100 euros to enter. They are also looking to implement zero emission taxis and putting regulations on construction equipment. Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, told the paper: “Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, impairs child lung development and increases the risk of hospitalisation among people with a pre-existing lung condition. It is time we stop talking and take immediate action to prevent more people being needlessly killed by the air that they breathe.”
Via The Guardian