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Living, Working, Breathing - 18 Million Face Unsafe Levels Of Pollution

Air Pollution Exposure in London
14 February 2019 | Updated 15 February 2019

Nearly 18 million NHS patients live, work and visit their GPs in English areas which breach pollution limits new figures show.

That's 7.5 million NHS patients in London, over 2 million in the East Midlands, 2.5 million in the east of England, 2.3 million in the south-east, 1.5 in the West Midlands, 865,000 in the South-West, 700,000 in the North-West and 374,000 NHS patients in Yorkshire and Humberside. The figures don't include Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland or those not registered with an NHS practice.



The new analysis of air pollution data has been  produced by the environmental cities network and shows that 17.9 million NHS patients in England are registered at a GP practice that exceeds the World Health Organisation annual limit for PM2.5 air pollution.

17.9 million is equivalent to nearly one in three (30%) of all NHS patients registered in England. UK100 are calling for leadership from central Government to tackle the problem with new laws and new funding for local authorities to clean up our toxic atmosphere.


London plus 30

18 million is equivalent to the population of London and all the 30 largest towns and cities in England, including everywhere from Leeds and Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, Nottingham and Newcastle, Manchester and Milton Keynes, Sheffield and Sunderland, Portsmouth and Plymouth.



The research was published ahead of a major Clean Air Summit hosted in London on February14  which was to be attended by the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, as well as mayors and council leaders from across England. They were due to be joined by Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.

Mayor Khan, said: “Our toxic air is a national health crisis, contributing to tens of thousands of premature deaths across the UK every year.

“Air pollution harms the lung growth and respiratory health of our children and is also linked to asthma, cancer and dementia. I’m proud that London has taken positive action by cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet, encouraging clean air innovation, establishing the largest air quality monitoring network of any major city and starting in April this year, introducing the world’s first 24/7 Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London.

“UK100’s findings are a timely reminder of how many people are exposed to poor air when they are at their most vulnerable. Government must recognise that cities can’t win this battle alone and we now need to be given greater powers and funding to clean up our filthy air and protect future generations.”


National problem

Commenting on the figures, Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “These figures show that air pollution is a national problem. We need urgent action from the government, with a new Clean Air Act passed by parliament to tackle toxic fumes.”


£6 billion bill

The head of NHS England is also backing calls for tougher action on air pollution. Causing up to 20,200 respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions every year, air pollution is a grave threat to the nation’s health. Previous scientific studies have put the cost to health as a result of car and van exhausts at £6 billion.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England added: "Air pollution causes thousands of hospital admissions and early deaths every year. While doctors, nurses and therapists are treating the health consequences, the NHS is also taking action to tackle the problem at source. The NHS’ Long Term Plan sets out how better use of technology can help make up to 30 million outpatient appointments – and the millions of patient journeys to hospital they involve – unnecessary.

“The NHS has already cut its carbon footprint by 11% between 2007 and 2015 and now we are working to cut emissions from the NHS fleet by 20% by 2024, with at least 90% of vehicles using ultra-low emission engines.

"Bold action like this has been estimated to help avoid over 50,000 cases of coronary heart disease and almost 10,000 cases of asthma by 2035. The UK100 summit this week is an important opportunity to come together and focus on the next steps we can all take to ensure a happier, healthier future for everyone."


Particulate Matte

According to the Royal College of Physicians (4), exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to including asthma, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, with emerging evidence showing impacts on low birth weight, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Board of Science, said: “Poor air quality is a serious problem in many cities across the UK and has a detrimental impact on the environment and the health of the population, including causing as many as 40,000 deaths each year. It is a shocking state of affairs that this invisible killer is still not taken seriously enough.  The government needs to look at evidence, like that compiled by UK100 and ensure that the forthcoming environment bill has legally enforceable air quality limits that meet World Health Organisation guidelines and gives local authorities adequate powers and funding to restrict air pollution.”


Top Ten

The top 10 most polluted GP practices are located in Barrow in Furness, Lowestoft, Penzance, Ipswich and Portsmouth. Birmingham has the most numbers of patients at toxic GP surgeries, with nearly half a million patients registered in areas that exceed WHO air pollution limits. This is followed by a number of London boroughs including Lambeth, Newham and Wandsworth.


Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 14 February 2019


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