Road fumes 'kill more Londoners than car crashes'

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Traffic fumes in London are to blame for more deaths a year than road accidents, an air pollution study has estimated.

Traffic fumes in London are to blame for more deaths a year than road accidents, an air pollution study has estimated.

The study, commissioned by the NHS Executive in London and backed by the Greater London Authority, says 380 people die from the effects of traffic pollution, compared with the 226 killed in road accidents in 1998. It also concludes that transport-related pollution puts another 1,200 people in hospital every year, and causes minor breathing problems for as many as 500,000 others.

The report, "On the Move", was launched as the London Health Commission, an umbrella body of organisations responsible for tackling health inequalities and boosting London's health, held its first meeting. One in a hundred Londoners may die because of the effects of air pollution, the report says.

Air pollution is thought to reduce the capacity of the lungs to combat viruses, and possibly bacteria, increasing susceptibility to infection. It can also aggravate heart and lung conditions. It is rarely the cause of death by itself but may tip the balance in people who are already ill. A study published in The Lancet last month concluded that pollution was responsible for 6 per cent of all deaths in Europe.

The London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, described transport and air pollution as "two of the biggest problems facing the capital". He added: "This report shows it's more harmful to walk down the street than to cross it."

Air pollution is not the only threat. Noise pollution from traffic, trains and aircraft, which disturbs sleep and affects school work, also causes problems. "A very large number of people in London (more than several hundred thousand) are exposed to noise levels above the World Health Organisation environmental guidelines," the report states.

The NHS Executive is planning to do further work into developing a framework so that all transport policy decisions are assessed for their implications on health. Areas that will be further investigated include speed restriction zones, congestion charging, and new public transport links.

Comments