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London clean city?
Premature deaths caused by London pollution 'three times higher than claimed'|
Campaign group writes to health secretary Alan Johnson calling for clarification of impact of poor air quality in capital
The government was today challenged on the number of premature deaths caused by poor air quality as new figures suggested it may be three times higher than previously claimed.
The Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) has written to the health secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask for clarification on the "full extent" of the health impact of poor air quality in Greater London.
The group's query comes in the wake of a report by the European Environment Agency, published last month, which says 2,905 premature deaths in Greater London in 2005 were attributable to dangerous airborne particles (PM10s).
The figure is almost treble the premature death rate cited in the London Air Quality Strategy, published under the former mayor Ken Livingstone in 2005.
That report said there had been 1,031 premature deaths in the same year.
The figure has since been used as a baseline during a London assembly environment committee inquiry into air quality in the capital.
The city has the worst pollution levels in Britain and some of the worst in Europe.
Simon Birkett, a spokesman for CCAL, wrote to the health secretary asking him to confirm the exact figures for London.
He has urged the Department of Health to commit to a "major public information programme" involving the annual release of updated information about the impact of poor air quality.
Birkett said the government's 2007 air quality strategy appeared to have "omitted references to premature deaths and years of life lost".
"The AQS 2007 stated simply 'estimated to reduce life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months with an equivalent health cost of up to ?0 billion each year'," he wrote.
"CCAL is deeply concerned that the public health impact of poor air quality in Greater London, which is recognised ?including by the government ?to be the worst in the United Kingdom, may be much worse than earlier research showed.
"In addition, why have major public information campaigns been launched on alcohol abuse, obesity, road traffic accidents and smoking, and not on poor air quality, when poor air quality is such a major killer?"
The government is already under pressure to improve air quality because of the European commission's "infraction" proceedings, which were begun earlier this year following Britain's failure to comply with rules on levels of PM10s.
The dangerous airborne particles are emitted by industry, traffic and domestic heating.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is due to submit an application to extend its deadline to 2011 to avoid up to ?00m in fines which could be incurred if European directives on air quality are not met.
It emerged last week that Defra was looking at its powers of direction over the London mayor, Boris Johnson, following his decision to suspend the third phase of the city's low emission zones.
The zones target the most polluting vehicles around the Greater London area and are a plank of the government's application to the commission.
The London assembly's report on air quality is due to be published later this month.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politi ... hs-london-pollution