Up to 19,500 UK deaths due to air pollution

Research supports earlier government estimates on pollution-related premature deaths

A first study to use UK data to estimate the number of premature deaths due to air pollution has concluded that such deaths are up to six times more common than road accident fatalities. The research is the first to test the accuracy of estimates published in 1998 by the health ministry, using US and European data (ENDS Daily 14 January 1998), and has largely confirmed the government's figures.

Economists at St Andrews University in Scotland compared death rates in 13 British cities with a pollution index based on levels of five pollutants: small particulates, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. They conclude that between 12,700 and 19,500 early deaths can be attributed each year to air pollution.

This is lower than the health ministry's 1998 estimate of 24,000 deaths per year, but the authors stress that this was expected since the ministry's estimates included a certain amount of "double counting" of fatalities attributed to exposure to different individual air pollutants.

One of the aims of the research was to further the debate on air pollution's cost to the economy. The study does not attach a monetary value to air pollution-related deaths, but does conclude that air pollution's impact on mortality "should obviously be included in the cost-benefit analysis of future transport policy".

Follow Up:
St Andrews university, tel: +44 1334 476 161; "Air pollution and mortality in a sample of British cities".

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