Air pollution stunts lung growth

Living near a busy road stunts children’s lung growth by up to 14 percent, and increases lung cancer risk by 10 percent.

Living within 50 metres of a major road in may increase your risk of developing lung cancer by up to 10 percent, a new report written by King’s College London has found. The report was released by a coalition of fifteen health and environment NGOs, including ClientEarth, the British Lung Foundation, and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change which represents 650,000 health professionals in the NHS.

The levels of recorded roadside air pollution stunt lung growth in children by  approximately 14 percent in Oxford, 13 percent in London, 8 percent in Birmingham, 5 percent in Bristol, 5 percent in Liverpool, 3 percent in Nottingham, and 4 percent in Southampton. One third (33 percent) of Londoners – around 3 million people – are estimated to live near a busy road.

The new research shows an increased risk of cardiac arrest, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and  bronchitis as well as reduced lung function in children.

Reducing emissions 

Ahead of the General Election on 12 December, the group is calling for all political parties to commit to adopting a legally-binding target to meet World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for particulate matter pollution by 2030 and take steps to immediately reduce illegal air pollution across the UK.

The existing UK legal limits for particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) are still more than double the WHO guideline levels.

To date, none of the political parties have explicitly committed to meet the guidelines by 2030. The fear is that without a clear deadline and timetable, many more people will die and face debilitating health conditions.

The group are also urging the introduction of a national network of Clean Air Zones across the UK.

London’s own clean air zone, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, launched earlier this year has already had an impact on reducing air pollution, with levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) falling by 29 percent.

Lung cancer

This is the first time that such a wide range of health conditions and cities have been analysed in one report, with the research comparing 13 different health outcomes including heart disease, lung cancer, strokes and bronchitis across 13 cities in the UK and Poland.

Previous research has tended to concentrate on deaths or hospital admissions, but this report also includes symptoms that affect a larger number of people such as chest infections (‘acute bronchitis’) and reduced lung function in children.

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