Pol­lu­tion re­spon­si­ble for 1,000 deaths a year

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

WITH the govern­ment plan­ning a crack­down on wood–burn­ing stoves and diesel engines, new anal­y­sis re­veals pol­lu­tion could have been killing more than 1,000 peo­ple in the West Mid­lands ev­ery year.

Min­is­ters have pub­lished a clean air strat­egy as part of a drive to halve the num­ber of pre­ma­ture deaths caused by air pol­lu­tion across the Eu­ro­pean Union by 2030.

Pro­pos­als in­clude al­low­ing coun­cils to crack down on “dirty” fu­els – in­clud­ing some wet­ter types of wood – and en­force “no burn” days.

The move comes with fig­ures sug­gest­ing the West Mid­lands has a rate of deaths at­trib­ut­able to par­tic­u­late air pol­lu­tion – also known as PM2.5 – above the na­tional av­er­age.

PM2.5 refers to tiny par­ti­cles that float in the air and can cause health prob­lems in­clud­ing heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

The lat­est data avail­able from Pub­lic Health Eng­land sug­gests that, over­all, 1,414 adults deaths in the West Mid­lands in 2016 may have been at­trib­ut­able to air pol­lu­tion.

Sandwell had the high­est rates of mor­tal­ity at­trib­ut­able to PM2.5 in our area.

The PHE data sug­gests it was re­spon­si­ble for 6.3 per cent of deaths of peo­ple aged 30 or older.

That is the equiv­a­lent of 174 adult deaths dur­ing the year.

In Birm­ing­ham, PM2.5 pol­lu­tion was blamed for 6.2 per cent of all adult deaths, or an es­ti­mated 507 deaths in all.

Wal­sall had the third–worst record, with PM2.5 pol­lu­tion caus­ing 6.1 per cent of adult deaths, or an es­ti­mated 156 deaths dur­ing the year.

Fig­ures are based on a model that ap­plies the size of the rise in air pol­lu­tion to the mor­tal­ity rate.

The govern­ment says air pol­lu­tion is the fourth big­gest threat to pub­lic health after cancer, obe­sity and heart disease.

Across Eng­land, PM2.5 pol­lu­tion con­trib­uted to 26,000 adult deaths in 2016, or 5.3 per cent of deaths of peo­ple aged 30 or older.

That rate has been increasing since 2014, when it stood at 5.1 per cent. The pro­pos­als are in ad­di­tion to the govern­ment’s £3.5 bil­lion plan to re­duce air pol­lu­tion from road trans­port and diesel ve­hi­cles, set out in July last year.

The strat­egy is in­tended to cut the cost of air pol­lu­tion to so­ci­ety by £1 bil­lion a year by 2020, and by £2.5 bil­lion a year by 2030.

Its pub­li­ca­tion was re­quired un­der Eu­ro­pean Union law – although en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary Michael Gove has said the mea­sures will be in­tro­duced ir­re­spec­tive of Brexit.

> Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Greg Clark

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