The health of Croydon residents is are among the worst affected by pollution, according to research conducted for City Hall, with BAME communities and the elderly particularly at risk
Toxic air quality in Croydon increases the risk of death in the same way as smoking 150 cigarettes a year and should be declared “a public health emergency”, according to the British Heart Foundation.
The capital’s poor air quality contributed to the deaths of more than 4,000 Londoners in 2019, according to research conducted by Imperial College’s Environmental Research Group. Croydon, with nearly 200 deaths attributable to the effects of pollution, is listed by the researchers among London boroughs with the highest number of pollution-related deaths.
The study, which was commissioned by City Hall, also revealed that Londoners from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities were exposed to the highest levels of air pollution.
According to the research, only 1 per cent of London meets World Health Organization limits for PM2.5 – the fine particulate pollution, mostly from motor vehicles, but also from waste incinerators, which can get into the deep parts of a person’s lungs, and has even been found in people’s blood system.
There is a growing consensus that the WHO limits should be included in the Environment Bill as a legally binding target to be met by 2030.
“We know that London’s toxic air kills,” said Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
“The report is a stark reminder that air pollution in our city still represents a public health crisis and urgent action is needed. It’s clear that pollution isn’t just a central London problem, which is why I am committed to expanding the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone in October this year.”
The Imperial College report states, “In 2019, in Greater London, the equivalent of between 3,600 to 4,100 deaths (61,800 to 70,200 life years lost) were estimated to be attributable to human-made PM2.5 and NO2, considering that health effects exist even at very low levels. This calculation is for deaths from all causes. including respiratory, lung cancer and cardiovascular deaths.”
And the researchers explain that the reason that outer London boroughs, such as Croydon, are more badly affected by the impact of poor air quality was “mainly due to the higher proportion of the elderly in these areas”.
The researchers said that air pollution contributed to 196 deaths in Croydon in 2019 – 8.3 deaths per 100,000 population, the eighth-highest among all London’s boroughs.
The findings, when compared to previous work in this area of study, should be deeply concerning for all decision-makers in the capital, since they suggest no real significant improvement in the air quality and its impact on health in south London over the past decade.
A previous scientific paper predicted 205 deaths per year in Croydon attributable to the effects of air pollution. That paper was published in 2010.
The British Heart Foundation is among those that want the Government to introduce tougher WHO air pollution limits. EU limits for PM2.5 are 25 micrograms per cubic metre. WHO’s limits are tougher – at 10 micrograms per cubic metre.
The BHF said PM2.5 can have a “seriously detrimental effect to heart health”, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke and making existing health problems worse.
BHF’s Jacob West said, “Air pollution is a major public health emergency and over many years it has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“Unless we take radical measures now to curb air pollution, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame.
“We have no choice over the air we breathe in the places we live. Legislation was passed over a decade ago to protect people from passive smoke, and similarly decisive must be taken to protect people from air pollution.”
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