The chair of a key committee of MPs has called on ministers to ‘use every tool in the box’ to improve the country’s air quality after a report said nine million early deaths a year worldwide are caused by pollution.
The Lancet Commission on pollution and health said both governments and the international development agenda had neglected the issue of pollution and its harmful effects on people’s health, the environment, and the planet for decades.
It said pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today, responsible for an estimated nine million premature deaths.
Professor Philip Landrigan, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in the US, who co-led the commission, said: ‘We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry.’
Mary Creagh, chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, said: ‘Long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution can increase people’s risk of a heart attack or stroke and worsen existing heart conditions.
‘After challenges from campaigners using EU laws, the Government is now on its third air quality plan.
‘We need the Government to use every tool in the box so we have a national strategy to deal with air pollution and reduce emissions from road vehicles, agriculture, construction and power generation.’
The Government’s most recent national strategy to tackle pollution from road vehicles, which was mandated by the High Court, was criticised as not going far enough and for putting too much onus on local authorities to implement potentially unpopular measures.