Four in every 100 deaths caused by air pollution

Cars are one of the biggest causes of air pollution.

Cars are one of the biggest causes of air pollution. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Health bosses have called a ‘public health emergency’ as four in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in North Somerset last year was caused by air pollution.

Public Health England (PHE) is proposing a ban on cars in areas surrounding schools and hospitals in order to tackle pollution and improve public transport.

The latest PHE figures show 4.3 in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over across North Somerset in 2018 were linked to long-term exposure to air pollution.

The data measures small particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, about three per cent of the width of a human hair – PM2.5.

Road traffic and some industrial activities are major sources of PM2.5 emissions.

Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, as long-term exposure to air pollution can cause chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer, leading to reduced life expectancy.

Martin Tett, transport chairman for the Local Government Association, said air pollution is a public health emergency.

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He said: “We need to be able to live in safe communities, which includes making sure the air we breathe is as free from pollution as possible.

“If the government’s air quality plans and any new local powers are to be successful, they need to be underpinned by flexibility and sufficient funding, which needs to be addressed in the spending review.

“Councils also need regional powers, particularly with regard to traffic offences, government support on planning and transport matters, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation.”

The proportion of deaths caused by air pollution in North Somerset has decreased since 2010, when 4.6 in every 100 deaths were connected to a high presence of the PM2.5 particles in the air.

A North Somerset Council spokesman said: “As part of our duties under the Environment Act 1995 we continue to monitor air quality within North Somerset.

“For all the monitoring sites around the district, levels of nitrogen dioxide continue to remain below the annual mean air quality objective.

“Further information on air quality in North Somerset and the steps that can be taken to improve air quality can be found in our air quality annual status reports.”