Pollution responsible for 1,000 deaths a year
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