Cities and Urbanization

Heart attacks and strokes are more common on high pollution days, data shows

Smog surrounds the Canary Wharf financial district in London April 3, 2014. A dust cloud from the Sahara has covered south east England, raising pollution levels to the highest level in London, preventing people taking exercise outdoors, including the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said he had skipped his morning jog. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT CITYSCAPE) - LM1EA43184G01

The rate of strokes also rises and more children are hospitalized with asthma. Image: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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High pollution causes more than 100 extra heart attacks in Britain’s cities each year, while contributing to a higher rate of strokes and new asthma cases in children, according to new research from King's College London.

“Each year on average, higher air pollution days in London are responsible for 87 more cardiac arrests outside hospital than lower air pollution days,” the report notes.

The study, Personalising the Health Impacts of Air Pollution, analysed data from British cities, including London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton.

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The work aims to elucidate the comprehensive impact of air pollutants - including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides - on our daily lives.

“Life years can seem a rather abstract concept and deaths may seem too distant in time for many in the population,” the authors wrote. “There is a role for summary statements on more common adverse health effects of air pollution” including those that feel “more familiar to the public”.

The result is shocking reading.

Image: World Health Organization

Roadside air pollution in Birmingham stunts lung growth in children by 7.7%, while cutting air pollution in London by one-fifth would increase children’s lung capacity by around 4%, the findings show.

Worldwide, an awareness of the dangers of air pollution are growing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution kills 7 million people each year - equivalent to 13 deaths every minute.

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While many policymakers are clear air pollution needs to be tackled, progress can seem slow. In the UK, 36 out of 43 local authority areas still have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, according to a ClientEarth analysis of UK government data.

Image: World Health Organization

The WHO has called on cities around the world to take action to reduce air pollution. London is one of the first megacities to commit to achieving those targets by 2030, by offering scrappage schemes for the most polluting vehicles and by planning to expand its ultra-low-emission zones.

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