Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

urban sunsetAir pollution is killing nearly 9,500 Londoners each year, more than twice the number previously thought.

The drastic increase is caused by the inclusion for the first time of numbers killed through long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, NO2, a pollutant largely blamed on diesel engines.

Experts from the Environmental Research Group at Kings College developed new methods to quantify the effects of NO2 in the study carried out for the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. It is thought to be the first study to capture NO2 related deaths.

Previous estimates were based on the damage caused by small particles in the air caused by pollution, so called PM2.5. A study in 2008 calculated these caused more than 4,000 deaths a year. The new study revises that figure down to 3,537, but the addition of 5,879 deaths attributed to NO2 has dramatically increased the estimated death rate.

As previously reported by Urbs, all but two London boroughs are in breach of EU regulation on NO2 levels. The outer boroughs of Sutton and Bromley were the only ones meeting legal limits last year. But this study, based on 2010 data, shows that Bromley had one of the highest rates of deaths caused by air pollution. Along with Barnet, it has the equal highest mortality numbers, followed by Croydon. These are 3 of the most populous boroughs in London, and they have the most cars.

As our map below shows, Sutton comes around mid range. The lowest estimated death rates are recorded for Kingston and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Air pollution deaths

The study also found that the combined effects of PM2.5 and NO2 were responsible for nearly 2,500 hospital admissions for respiratory problems and 740 for cardiovascular damage.


See also

Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

Car ownership reveals a tale of 2 Londons

Heathrow gets the nod to expand, but it’s already Europe’s noisiest airport


Researchers based their findings on pollution levels from 2010 as it is the most recent base year data available from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory, the system set up to gather air pollution information on the capital.

The GLA says that as the data is 5 years old it does not take into account more recent measures to improve air quality, such as the introduction of more hybrid buses to replace diesel vehicles.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson,  has announced an Ultra Low Emission Zone for 2020 to reduce heavy lorries and coaches in the capital. And in releasing the data he called on the UK Government and the EU to do more, as the study says that half the pollution in London comes from outside, including diesel fumes and industry emissions from continental Europe.

The Mayor also used the opportunity to again voice his opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission.

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