Revealed: how many deaths air pollution caused in Devon
PUBLISHED: 16:53 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 14 March 2019
Air pollution causes four in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in Devon, one of the lowest rates in England.
Public Health England is proposing a ban on cars idling in areas like schools or hospitals, while councils call for more funding to tackle pollution and improve public transport.
The latest PHE figures show that 3.8 in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in Devon in 2017 were linked to long-term exposure to air pollution.
The data only measures PM2.5 — small particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, about 3 per cent of the width of a human hair.
Long-term exposure to these particles can trigger chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease or bronchitis, and cause other respiratory problems.
Road traffic and some industrial activities are major sources of PM2.5 emissions.
The proportion of deaths caused by air pollution in Devon has decreased since 2010, when 3.9 in every 100 deaths were connected to a high presence of these particles in the air.
Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said air pollution was a public health emergency.
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 local flexibility and sufficient funding, which needs to be addressed in the Spending Review.
“Councils also need local 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.”
PHE recently released a set of recommendations for tackling air pollution as, according to its estimate, 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK could be attributed to long-term exposure to PM2.5 particles.
Across England, air pollution accounts for 5.1 in every 100 deaths, slightly lower than seven years earlier, when it was 5.6 per 100 deaths.
Professor Paul Cosford, medical director and director of health protection at PHE, said: “We should stop idling outside schools and we should make sure that children can walk or cycle to school.”
“Transport and urban planners will need to work together with others involved in air pollution to ensure that new initiatives have a positive impact.”