Air pollution in Bristol, much of which is caused by diesel cars, contributes to five people dying prematurely every week, new research has revealed.
Researchers at Kings College London looked at the combined impact of air pollution from particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).
They estimated that these pollutants, which in cities primarily come from older polluting vehicles, led to up to 36,000 deaths across the UK in 2013, and contribute to a wide range of health conditions including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, strokes and, possibly, diabetes.
Published by the clean air campaign group UK100, the study also found that Bristol had higher levels of PM2.5 pollution than Liverpool City and Greater Manchester, but a lower death rate for its smaller population.
‘This report shows that more needs to be done to address the level of threat air pollution poses to health in Bristol and highlights that the highest level of air pollution in Bristol coincides with zones of exceptional population growth and areas having the highest black and minority ethnic population,’ said Dr David Dajnak, principal air quality scientist with the environmental research group at King’s.
Polly Billington, director of UK100, commented: ‘This data shows why we need clear and binding targets for every city in the UK to be compliant with WHO [World Health Organisation] pollution guidelines to prevent deaths from air pollution.
‘Bristol is taking action, but they need support and funding, including from businesses and central Government in order to expand on their planned Clean Air Zone.’
The city council is planning to introduce the country’s first ever complete ban on diesel cars to help reduce the threat of air pollution. Under these plans, all privately owned diesel vehicles will be barred from entering a clean air zone in the city centre every day between 7am and 3pm by March 2021.
However it has stopped short of tougher plans such as the congestion charging for private cars seen in London and its current approach is not projected to achieve compliance with legal pollution limits until 2025.
‘We have a moral, ecological and legal duty to clean up the air we breathe,’ said mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.
‘This research emphasises how vital it is that we act quickly to improve health and save lives in Bristol.
‘Our proposed plans for a combination of a small area diesel ban and medium sized clean air zone gets us to legal air quality levels in the shortest possible time minimising the adverse impact on our lowest income households.’
This story first appeared on localgov.co.uk