Top 5 Worst Air Pollution Hotspots Revealed

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Poor air quality has been linked to the death of over 16,000 Britons each year, following a new report into air pollution and its catastrophic consequences. On a global scale, outdoor air pollution has even been attributed to a shocking 3 million deaths. The report is based on 2012 figures, which is the most up-to-date information available.

It was estimated that over 7,300 people died from ischaemic heart disease linked to outdoor air pollution during 2012.

During the same year, there was nearly 5,000 deaths due to lung cancer and 3,700 from strokes. In addition, more than 400 people died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute lower respiratory disease was the factor behind a further 12 deaths.

Worryingly, the research has determined that more than 90% of the UK’s population are currently living in areas where air pollution is greater than ‘safe’ levels set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).

By utilising satellite measurements, a computer model was able to provide the approximate levels of pollution present in each country around the world. The air quality model used in the data measures the smallest particles, less than 2.5 micrometres across – these are able to get into the bloodstream and then to the brain.

According to the research conducted at Bath University on behalf of WHO, 92% of us are living in places where levels of PM2.5 are exceeding the recommended WHO air quality limits.

One of the biggest culprits to poor air is diesel engines, which emit tiny, microscope specks known as particulates into the air. This raises our asthma risk, as well as the chances of developing aforementioned diseases such as stroke and lung cancer, say those behind the new analysis.

The main problem stems from the fact that the particles manage to get deep into the lungs and circulatory system, where they can cause havoc and serious health problems.

Worldwide, it was found that the south-east Asia and western Pacific regions account for almost 2 out of every 3 deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, or stroke that can be connected to poor air quality, and it is getting worse with regards to the poorer countries.

Back in 2014, Janez Potočnik, the EU environment commissioner, commented that poor air quality is the top environmental cause of premature deaths across Europe, causing more than 100,000 premature deaths a year and costing anywhere between £300 billion to £800 billion per year in extra health costs.

It was discovered that the worst polluted areas of the UK were London, Manchester, Bristol, the south-East and South Wales. Unpolluted areas were scarce however, mainly found to be the Scottish highlands and Dartmoor.

Dr Gavin Shaddick, of the University of Bath’s Department of Mathematical Sciences said that in the past more effort had been directed against coarse particles – but now it was increasingly realised that the invisible, ultra-fine particles are even more of a risk to our health.

He said: “A lot of PM2.5 comes from vehicle exhausts in urban areas, particularly diesel engines.”

He said: “Globally, air pollution presents a major risk to public health and a substantial number of lives could be saved if levels of air pollution were reduced.

“Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at the WHO, said: “Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults.

“For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The Government is firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.

“That’s why we have committed more than £2 billion to greener transport schemes since 2011 and set out a national plan to tackle pollution in our towns and cities.”

The WHO have highlighted sustainable transport, waste management, and renewable energies as potential methods of decreasing air pollution levels.

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