Children could have their lives shortened by seven months from breathing polluted air, research has found.
An eight-year-old born in 2011 may die between two and seven months early if they continue to be exposed to current pollution projections.
The study looked at the combined impact of two leading causes of poor health from air pollution – nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air.
A new study has found that an eight-year-old child born in 2011 could die up to seven months early if they continue to be exposed to current air pollution projections
The impact was considered to be worse than some other major cities in the country – with the report finding a more pronounced loss of life expectancy in Birmingham than in Manchester.
The report also puts a figure of between £190million to £470million on the potential annual health bill for air pollution in Birmingham. This is not a real-world cost, but is the amount society might be reasonably expected to spend on policies to reduce air pollution, the authors said.
A network of local leaders is calling for ‘clean air zones’ in major cities across the country.
Polly Billington, director of the UK100 network, which commissioned the research, said: ‘This report should be a wake-up call to policymakers, not just in Birmingham but across the country.
‘We need to tackle this invisible killer, which is cutting the lives of children and causing health misery for thousands of adults.’
Researchers from King’s College London based their estimates on the effect of air pollution on deaths and the shortening of life-expectancy in Birmingham. Pictured is Birmingham City Centre
She added: ‘By working together, local councils and central government can put in place ambitious and inclusive clean air zones to tackle the most polluting sources of dirty air and let us breathe freely.’ Sue Huyton, of the Clean Air Parents’ Network, said: ‘It’s awful that children living in the UK are breathing air that may shorten their lives.
‘As a parent, you want to do everything you can for your children, but when it comes to air pollution you can feel helpless – that’s why those in power must step up.’
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: ‘2.6million children in England are breathing in toxic fumes everyday – and now there is clear and frightening evidence that this could also shorten their lives.
‘The NHS is taking practical steps to reduce our effect on the environment – as well as treating those suffering the consequences of air pollution – yet we cannot win this fight alone, and the growing consensus on the need for wider action across society is welcome.’
Air pollution in many towns and cities is at illegal levels. To reduce these figures, Birmingham City Council – among others – plans to introduce a ‘clean air zone’ in 2020 to tackle pollution from transport vehicles and particulate matter.
Legal action is also being taken over air pollution. The High Court ruled in May that a new inquest should be held into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, 9, who suffered a fatal asthma attack thought to have been triggered by illegally high levels of air pollution near her home in Lewisham, south-east London.
The inquest will investigate whether air pollution should be listed as a cause of death.