UK air pollution deaths are ‘public health crisis’

car exhaust contributing to air pollution

People in the UK are more likely to die from air pollution than in many other countries in Europe as well as the United States, Brazil and Mexico, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UK mortality rate for air pollution is 25.7 for every 100,000 people, ranking it 15th in all European countries. 

Sweden, which comes out on top in Europe by far, has a rate of 0.4 per 100,000, followed by 6.0 per 100,000 for Finland.

Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Spain all had rates under 15.0 per 100,000, according to the WHO World Health Statistics 2017 report.

By comparison, the US rate is 12.1 for every 100,000, meaning thats Britons are twice as likely as Americans to die from poor air quality. Brazil’s mortality rate for air pollution is 15.8 per 100,000 people, while Mexico’s 23.5 per 100,000 people.

The worse countries for air pollution deaths include Myanmar (128.2) and India (133.7).

A global reduction in the number of deaths from air pollution from the estimated 3 million currently seen annually is a key WHO target.

The report also includes average figures for air pollution from fine particulate matter, which in the UK is 12.4μg of fine particulate pollutants (PM2.5) for each cubic metre of air.

This compares with 5.9μg in Sweden, 9.9μg in Spain and 12.6μg in France.

Penny Woods, chief executive of UK charity the British Lung Foundation, says the report confirms that deaths from air pollution are higher in the UK than in many other comparable countries but that we have the technology and resources to fix it.

“In the UK, air pollution is a public health crisis hitting our most vulnerable the hardest — our children, people with a lung condition and [older people].

“The next government needs to bring in a new Clean Air Act to protect the nation’s lung health,” she adds.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, May 2017;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202821