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Air Pollution

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the annual number of premature deaths caused by air pollution in England; and if he will make a statement. (249764)

There are many uncertainties involved in estimating deaths brought forward as a result of air pollution. Current estimates are being updated, but in 1998, the Department's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimated that 24,000 deaths were brought forward each year due to air pollution in the United Kingdom.

The UK Air Quality Strategy aims to protect against risks to public health from air pollution. Healthy individuals are not thought to be at significant risk of short-term effects from current levels of air pollution in the UK, but associations have been indicated between daily variations in levels of some pollutants and daily variations in mortality and hospital admissions for respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

An economic analysis to inform the Air Quality Strategy was published in July 2007. It presents detailed assessments of the additional policy measures considered by the Air Quality Strategy (AQS).

To inform the UK Air Quality Strategy (2007), COMEAP estimated that the average loss of life expectancy would be around seven to eight months in 2005. With the implementation of measures outlined in the Strategy, this is predicted to drop to around 5.5 months in 2020. As with any average, the loss of life expectancy will be greater than this for some people and less than this for others.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department has commissioned or assessed on the levels of (a) PM10, (b) PM2.5, (c) ozone, (d) nitrogen dioxide and (e) nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere; and if he will make a statement. (249765)

The Department has commissioned a number of research projects to assess the links between public health and the air pollutants.

Projects recently commissioned in 2008 are:



Health implications of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in indoor environments

University of Birmingham

Short- and long-term effects of air pollution on cardiovascular disease events

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Lifecourse Effects of Air Pollution on cardiorespiratory morbidity in the MRC National Survey of Health and Development

Imperial College, London

Oxidative potential of particulate matter and risk of cardiovascular disease: a hybrid toxico-epidemiological study

King's College, London

An investigation of the effects of long term exposure to air pollution on cardiorespiratory morbidity in a large population cohort

St. George's, University of London

A study of the concentration-response relationship for the effects of ozone on health

St. George's, University of London

Quantification of health impacts of airborne particulates: comparing estimates based on personal exposure and outdoor concentrations

University of York

The published reports of previous projects are available on the Department's website at:

The effects of particles, S02 and ozone have all been quantified and valued as part of the UK Air Quality Strategy review in 2007, using recommendations by the Department's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP).

The health effects considered include both short-term effects (daily deaths, respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions) and long-term effects. There is, however, still considerable uncertainty surrounding the precise scale and mechanisms linking air quality and health, especially for the long-term effects on life expectancy.