ULTRA Low Emission Zone and other London policies to tackle air pollution are said to save the NHS around £5 billion and more than one million hospital admissions over the next 30 years.
The figures are from a new report looking at the long-term health impacts of exposure to toxic pollution (NO2 and PM2.5) in London.
The world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone was introduced last year in central London and is the centrepiece of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s action to tackle London’s toxic air health crisis.
Mr Khan commented on the report: “Air pollution is a national health crisis that is contributing to thousands of premature deaths in London alone.
“Toxic air causes long-lasting harm and could devastate lives for generations.
“This new data shows that the action we’re taking is already making a difference and saving lives.
“The Ultra Low Emission Zone in particular will have a transformative impact in the coming years, with one million fewer air pollution related hospital admissions and billions of pounds saved to the NHS.
“I’ve moved fast in London to implement the most ambitious plans to tackle air pollution of any major city in the world – showing what we can achieve if we are brave enough to take bold action.
“The Government must take urgent steps to help clean up filthy air across the country, including with a new Environment Bill to give cities the powers they need and making World Health Organization air quality guidelines legally binding targets to be met by 2030.”
Toxic pollutants lead to thousands of premature deaths every year, increase the risk of asthma, dementia and cancer and stunt the development of children’s lungs.
Co-Founder & COO of HealthLumen, Dr Laura Webber, said: “Our modelling shows that if no action is taken to reduce current levels of pollution, by 2050 the number of new diseases attributable to man-made NO2 and PM2.5 in London is estimated to be up to 850,000.
“This will place a significant burden on London’s health and social care system.
“The Mayor’s policies in place to reduce and restrict NO2 and PM2.5 are expected to have an important and positive impact on the reduction of air pollution-related disease across London over the next 30 years.”
The Ultra Low Emission Zone is stated to have already led to immediate health benefits with fewer polluting cars being driven and a roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) reducing by 36 per cent in the zone.
The report reveals that by 2050 the impact of the Mayor’s air quality policies, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone, Low Emission Bus Zones and no longer licensing new diesel taxis, are predicted to result in:
- almost 300,000 Londoners saved from diseases attributable to air pollution, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer and dementia. This is a reduction of around one in every four air pollution related diseases
- a cost saving to London’s NHS and social care system of around £5 billion
- one million fewer new air pollution related hospital admissions in London.
In addition to the policy areas controlled by the Mayor, if no wider action is taken by the Government to reduce air pollution:
- around 550,000 Londoners would develop diseases attributable to air pollution over the next 30 years
- the cumulative cost to the NHS and social care system in London is estimated to be £10.4 billion.
Susannah Kerr, Head of Public Affairs at the British Heart Foundation, added: “This new report shows the transformational impact that measures to curb air pollution can have in improving the capital’s health and reducing strain on the NHS.
“Air pollution is a public health emergency. Our research has shown that tiny toxic particles known as PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
“It’s clear that ambitious action to tackle the sources of air pollution are necessary to protect the nation’s health.
“The Government’s Environment Bill provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help everyone breathe cleaner air.
“Adopting the World Health Organization’s guideline limits on air pollution into UK law by 2030 would drive the action we need against toxic air.”
The report can be read here