Urban air pollution is set to become the biggest environmental cause of premature death in the coming decades, overtaking even such mass killers as poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, according to a new report.
There could be 3.6 million premature deaths a year from exposure to particulate matter, most of them in China and India.
London air pollution is at a record high. Recirculated dirty air from Europe and the north of England is partly to blame, along with a lack of wind, said Gary Fuller, senior lecturer in air quality measurement at King's College London. "Still conditions mean that the pollution from the cars and lorries on the roads today is simply not blowing away. On top of this, the air over England today was in northern France yesterday and in northern England on Tuesday where it picked up a lot of air pollution from coal burning industries, domestic heating and traffic."
Simon Birkett, director of the Clean Air in London campaign, said: "The failure by the mayor to warn Londoners about five smog episodes in a row proves he is desperate to avoid the air pollution issue ahead of the mayoral election. It's clear the mayor, who would rather suppress pollution in front of official air quality monitoring stations than save lives, is more concerned about getting re-elected than he is about those he represents. This may be the biggest public health fraud for a generation."
Health advice from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says that adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems and all older people should not take any "strenuous physical activity" while pollution is at the recorded levels. The general population is advised to reduce exercise too.