Revealed: Air pollution responsible for one in 15 deaths of over-30s in Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 February 2020
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Air pollution is responsible for one in 15 deaths among people aged 30 or over in Redbridge, new data reveals.
The environmental charity Friends of the Earth says levels of damaging air pollution across the country are an "absolute disgrace", and has called for new legally enforceable reduction targets.
Public Health England figures show an estimated 6.8pc of deaths of people aged 30 or over in Redbridge in 2018 were caused by air pollution.
The data measures deaths associated with long-term exposure to tiny particles known as PM2.5, which have a diameter about 3pc of the width of a human hair.
Vehicle emissions are a major source of the harmful particulate matter, which is also produced by industrial processes and the burning of fuels for heating.
Repeated exposure to the particles can trigger chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease or bronchitis, and cause other respiratory problems.
Councillor Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, said the council was committed to confronting air pollution head on and ensuring a sustainable future for the borough but that everyone needed to do their part.
He said that means leaving cars at home and taking public transport more often, or walking children to school.
He said: "The council is working to make it as easy as possible to use bikes and to walk around Redbridge, and we're also reducing traffic around schools, alongside many other measures."
The 6.8pc figure for Redbridge was greater than the London average of 6.6pc and much higher than the figure for neighbouring borough Havering at 6.2pc.
Cllr John Howard, cabinet member for civic pride, said the council is working hard to tackle pollution with a range of innovative solutions so nobody in Redbridge should have to live with bad air quality.
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He said: "We have already rolled out car exclusion zones around some local schools to protect our children from car emissions; a tree planting programme; and a bicycle usage promotion scheme.
"Behind the scenes, we are proactively designing healthy environments to improve air quality.
"We're working with partners, including the London Mayor's Office, to invest in infrastructure and public transport, promoting active travel and cycle routes."
"We are also leading the drive for the rise in electric vehicle traffic by being one of the first in the UK to create a fast-charging hub for electric vehicles."
Across England, 5.2pc of deaths of people aged 30 or over were estimated to be due to long-term exposure to PM2.5 in 2018.
Jenny Bates, a campaigner for the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said: "These levels of the most health-damaging air pollution are an absolute disgrace.
"Every year, UK air pollution causes nearly 36,000 early deaths and billions of pounds in costs to the economy. The government must get a grip on this health crisis."
Ms Bates added that the new Environment Bill was a "crucial opportunity" to protect healthy air by setting out legally binding targets on particle air pollution to be met by 2030.
A PHE spokeswoman said poor air quality can particularly affect individuals who are more vulnerable to harm, including those with heart and lung disease, children and the elderly.
She added: "Improving air quality is crucial to reducing the health impacts of air pollution and helping people live longer, healthier lives."
Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association's transport spokesman, said councils have introduced a range of measures to tackle air pollution, such as clean air zones, encouraging the use of electric vehicles with recharging points, and promoting cycling.
But he warned that any air quality plans need proper funding and local flexibility to be successful.
He added: "Local powers are also needed to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to moving traffic offences and robust national action to help the country transition to lower emission travel, including cycling and walking and an effective national bus strategy."
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