Pollution in air 'kills 10,000 each year'

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The Independent Online
AIR POLLUTION is killing up to 10,000 people a year in Britain, probably by exacerbating respiratory illnesses, according to calculations by an environmental scientist advising the US government, writes Steve Connor.

The figures are based on levels of the fine particles in the exhaust emissions from factories and vehicles which Joel Schwartz, a Harvard epidemiologist working for the US Environmental Protection Agency, has linked with increased death rates in a number of American cities.

Working with measurements of emissions in England and Wales by the Government's Warren Spring Laboratory, Dr Schwartz says in New Scientist that the extra deaths in this country due to the pollutants could be as high as 10,000 a year.

Dr Schwartz's research has led the British government's advisers on air pollution to review their position on the potential dangers of particulates in exhausts, known as PM10 because each particle is less than 10 micrometres across.

'Two years ago, any danger from them was discounted by the Department of Health,' New Scientist says. Now a senior scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Stephen Holgate of Southampton University, is reported as saying that the recent research 'provides convincing evidence for a link between mortality and PM10'.

The Warren Spring Laboratory has over the past 18 months established a network of monitoring stations to measure PM10 levels. The data show that three cities - Belfast, Cardiff and Liverpool - had at least seven days when average daily concentration exceeded US safety levels.