A new study published by King’s College London (KCL) reports that elevated levels of air pollution contribute to increased spikes in cardiac arrests, stroke admissions and asthma hospitalizations. The sobering news has been described as a health emergency, prompting calls for the British government to commit to more enforceable sustainability targets and improved air quality standards.
The research team surveyed data across nine cities: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. London had the largest uptick of health incidents because it experienced more high pollution days. For the English capital city, an additional 124 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 231 stroke admissions and 193 asthma hospitalizations occurred on days registering higher pollution levels. The collated data clearly revealed a cause-and-effect correlation. Thus, increased air pollution from wind direction and wind strength conclusively affected people’s health in just a short period of time while similarly having implications on life expectancy.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said, “London’s lethal air is a public health crisis — it leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.”
In response to the study findings, the British National Health Service (NHS) tweeted that almost a third of preventable deaths in England “are due to non-communicable diseases specifically attributed to air pollution.”
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS, further explained, “Since these avoidable deaths are happening now — not in 2025 or 2050 — together we need to act now. For the NHS, that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one-fifth in the past decade. So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.”
Image via Matt Buck