The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimates that 43,000 Britons over 30 die every year as a result of air pollution, writes the Telegraph, part of a global annual toll of premature deaths that the WHO puts at a staggering seven million. Long-term exposure to airborne pollutants has been reliably linked to an increase in cancer, asthma, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and dementia. A 2019 study found that schoolchildren in more polluted areas were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression by the age of 18. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that the cost of UK air pollution – healthcare, lost days at work, etc – runs to more than £20bn a year. COMEAP chair Professor Anna Hansell notes, ‘studies show that air pollution adds to health risks even at low concentrations.’
Coroner Philip Barlow delivered an historic verdict on the death of 10 year-old Ella Aloo-Kissi-Debrah: ‘Air pollution was a significant contributory factor … During her illness from 2010 to 2013 she was exposed to levels of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particulate matter in excess of WHO guidelines. The main source of her exposure was traffic emissions.’
Roads in and out of London are, of course, riddled with traffic lights that maximise congestion and emissions.