Toxic air in London hospitalised more than 1,700 in just three years, study finds

‘No child or adult should suffer as a result of breathing dirty air,’ campaigner says

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 02 March 2022 20:04
<p>Hundreds were hospitalised due to air pollution between 2017 and 2019 in the capital, new research finds</p>

Hundreds were hospitalised due to air pollution between 2017 and 2019 in the capital, new research finds

Toxic air in London caused more than 1,700 hospitalisations for asthma or serious lung conditions in just three years, according to new research.

Over a third of these were children admitted for asthma, scientists from Imperial College London found.

The UK government describes poor air quality as the “largest environmental risk to public health” in the country.

Exposure can cause a wide range of diseases, including respiratory illnesses and cancer, and exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma.

Earlier this year, Londoners were warned about “high” pollution levels in the capital, with vulnerable people urged to reduce strenuous physical activity because of the risk it posed.

The new research on the link between hospitalisations and air pollution showed the picture had improved from more than 4,000 admissions between 2014 and 2016.

But over 1,700 people were still hospitalised for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) between 2017 and 2019 due to toxic air in the capital - which works out at three people admitted to hospital every two days due to polluted air.

Out of these, 700 were children taken to hospital due to asthma made worse by air pollution, the research - funded by the Greater London Authority - found.

Dr Heather Walton, a senior author of the report, said: “Air pollution continues to contribute to many hospital admissions for asthma and COPD in London but it is good to see that these hospital admissions have decreased from 2016 to 2019 as a result of air pollution reductions in London.

“More policies to reduce air pollution in London should reduce these numbers further and reduce other health impacts of air pollution as well.”

Ruth Fitzharris from campaign group Mums for Lungs, said her son is “significantly affected by air pollution” like thousands of others in London and had been “admitted to hospital repeatedly with severe wheezing”.

She added: “These episodes are so frightening: no child or adult should suffer as a result of breathing dirty air.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, vowed last month to clamp down on poor air quality in the capital, saying there was “no time to waste” on tackling the issue.

“Deadly air pollution is permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and affecting older people who are more vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality,” he said.

Weeks before, he announced his intention to slash car journeys and transport emissions in the capital, saying there could be a shake-up of the current road charging system.

In February, analysis showed every hospital and medical centre in the capital is in an area the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies as having toxic air pollution.

In the same month, campaigners also said a new road tunnel in London - due to start being built within months - would be “devastating” for a local borough “already the most polluted” in the UK.

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