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Health: Second-hand Smoke

Volume 694: debated on Thursday 26 July 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 14 May (WA 8), how many individuals in the United Kingdom are estimated each year to die prematurely or suffer serious ill health as a result of inhaling (a) smoke or fumes from bonfires, incinerators and industrial processes; (b) fumes from motor vehicles; and (c) all other airborne pollutants. [HL4901]

The department's committee on the medical effects of air pollutants (COMEAP) quantification sub-group in its report The Quantification of the Effects of Air Pollution on Health in the United Kingdom estimated in 19981 the number of deaths brought forward due to short-term exposure to particulate matter (PM10), ozone and sulphur dioxide as up to 24,000 per year. The estimated number of respiratory hospital admissions (additional or brought forward) due to these pollutants was similar. Copies have been placed in the Library.

Since that time, pollutant levels have reduced but this estimate does not include the impact of air pollution on life expectancy and on cardiovascular admissions. These were not quantified by COMEAP at the time of the 1998 report. Further work on this issue is likely to be considered as part of the work of the COMEAP sub-group on quantification.

COMEAP did not provide estimates broken down by pollutant source.

On 17 July 2007, the Government published their new air quality strategy which sets out a way forward for work and planning on air quality issues; sets out the air quality standards and objectives to be achieved; introduces a new policy framework for tackling fine particles; and identifies potential new national policy measures which modelling indicates could give further health benefits and move us closer towards meeting the strategy's objectives and improving air quality.

1 Based on pollution levels in 1996. Pollution levels have reduced substantially since then.