Impacts of air pollution
Both the World Health Organisation and Public Health England recognise poor air quality as the largest known environmental risk to public health. In total, about 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution (Source: ‘Every breath we take – the lifelong impact of air pollution’ - Royal College of Physicians, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016).
In Basildon, almost 6% of all deaths (people aged over 30) each year can be attributed to air pollution, which is slightly higher than the national average, while many more people suffer with various health conditions caused or contributed to by polluted air.
Longer term exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. There are also suggestions it can increase the likelihood of you developing Type 2 diabetes and dementia. It is also thought likely that exposure to air pollutants increases the likelihood or severity of COVID-19 infection.
Even short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, affect lung function and increase hospital admissions. In the Basildon and Brentwood area, 16,675 people suffer from asthma.
Air pollution, in particular nitrogen dioxide, is damaging to the health of all of us but particularly young children and those with existing heart and lung problems.
There are also links between exposure to high levels of air pollution and low birth weight and reduced lung function, while it can even result in premature birth or pregnancy loss.
Health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to people who suffer from associated illnesses, our health services and businesses, and are estimated to cost the UK about £20 billion every year (Source: ‘Every breath we take – the lifelong impact of air pollution’ - Royal College of Physicians, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016).
Air pollution particularly threatens economic growth by impacting upon people of working age. If staff have to take days off work because of air pollution-related illnesses, then businesses and the economy suffer.
It also affects productivity and results in significant costs to the NHS – money which could otherwise be spent on treating other illnesses.
Air pollution is responsible for significant damage to the natural environment.
Nitrogen dioxide contributes to the pollution of soil and watercourses, which impacts on animal and plant life, as well as biodiversity in sensitive habitats. Road traffic emissions also contribute to local ozone production, which has health impacts and damages agricultural crops, forests and plants.