Air pollution in Britain: state-sanctioned mass poisoning

The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2011

Successive governments have found that the simplest way to end urban poverty is to encourage poor people to live near congested roads. Apart from war and fags, nothing is more certain to shorten human life than to make people breathe a daily dose of poisons, especially sooty particles known as PM10s and nitrogen oxides that largely come from traffic and factories. The minute particles of partially burned diesel fuel and tyres travel deep into lungs and the gases trigger respiratory diseases. If you already have heart disease or asthma, then just living near a main road can be a death sentence.

In Britain, the environment audit committee has just produced a shocking report showing that 200,000 people can expect to have their lives shortened by as much as two years and everyone else have theirs curtailed by seven months for just breathing. In London alone, air pollution has been linked to nearly one in five deaths a year. This is in line with the rest of the US and Europe where last week the European Environment Agency [EEA] reported that air pollutants already lead to 500,000 premature deaths a year and are now a bigger killer than passive smoking, road traffic accidents and obesity together.

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