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Air Pollution

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent assessment he has made of the effects of levels of particulate pollution on the mortality rate; (269077)

(2) if he will publish the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants’ draft paper entitled, Long-term exposure to air pollution: effect on mortality, produced in 2007.

The Department’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) advises the UK Health Department on the effects on health of both outdoor and indoor air pollutants.

The most recent assessment of the effects of particulate pollution on mortality was published in 2007 by COMEAP: draft report—“Long-term Exposure to Air Pollution: Effect on Mortality”. This report indicated that the collected evidence pointed strongly to an association between long-term exposure to particulate air pollution and effects on mortality. The report suggests that air pollution has a greater effect on mortality in the United Kingdom than previously thought, with a 10 microgramme increase in fine particles being associated with a 6 per cent. increase in risk of death from all causes.

The final version of the report, previously published for technical comment for a period of six weeks, will be published in May 2009.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has calculated the estimated loss of life expectancy linked to particulate pollution in its 2007 review of the UK’s Air Quality Strategy. This calculation utilised the recommendations made by COMEAP in its 2007 draft report. DEFRA estimated that the level of man-made particulate air pollution experienced in the UK in 2005 would be expected to reduce life expectancy averaged over the whole population of the UK by up to about seven to eight months.