Up to 40,000 UK deaths can be attributed to air pollution each year, says the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 23 February 2016 in News

Friends of the Earth Scotland says UK figures could mean between 2,500-3,500 deaths in Scotland each year

Up to 40,000 deaths can be attributed to outdoor air pollution in the UK each year, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoE) said the figures could mean between 2,500-3,500 deaths in Scotland each year.

It comes after a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) described air pollution as the single biggest environmental health risk in Europe.


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The EEA’s Air Quality in Europe 2015 report attributes more than 430,000 premature deaths in Europe each year to air pollution, with most city dwellers exposed to levels deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

FoE Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “This new research shows that the previous official figure for how many people die early from air pollution underestimated the scale of the problem, and that air pollution is a much more serious public health crisis than previously understood.

“Based on this new research we can estimate that over 2,500 people in Scotland are dying early from air pollution each year. Breathing in toxic fumes increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Children, especially those growing up in urban settings, are forced to breathe in tiny harmful chemicals and studies have shown a link between exposure to nitrogen dioxide and children’s lung development. Air pollution can also cause developing foetuses to fail to grow to their full potential.

She added: “It is shocking that despite the overwhelming evidence showing that air pollution is a top killer and that traffic is the key cause, the Scottish Government continues to pour millions of pounds into unnecessary road building. When the Scottish Government decides its budget this Wednesday, this new evidence must make it reinvest a portion of its motorways budget back into walking and cycling projects.”

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