Living in the most polluted parts of a city appears to have a similar effect on your blood pressure as becoming overweight, according to the world’s largest ever study of the effects of fossil fuel emission on human health. Researchers found that those living in the most polluted parts of a city had a higher chance of developing it than people in less polluted urban areas. They said the risk was similar to someone with a normal body mass index becoming officially overweight.
Researchers warned their findings showed that current European Union limits on air pollution were not low enough to adequately protect people. M Those limits are regularly breached in parts of the UK and the Government has been taken to court in order to force it to introduce measures to address the problem.
An estimated 40,000 people a year die prematurely in the UK because of the air they breathe. The World Health Organization has warned air pollution is “wreaking havoc on human health”, while campaigners have described diesel fumes as the “biggest public health catastrophe since the Black Death”.
Professor Barbara Hoffmann, of Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, who led the study, said: “As virtually everybody is exposed to air pollution for all of their lives, this leads to a high number of hypertension cases, posing a great burden on the individual and on society. One very important aspect is that these associations can be seen in people living well below current European air pollution standards. This means the current legislation does not protect the European population adequately from adverse effects of air pollution. Given the ubiquitous presence of air pollution and the importance of hypertension as the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, these results have important public health consequences and call for more stringent air quality regulations.”
Greenpeace senior campaigner Areeba Hamid said: “The UK is facing a public health emergency due to air pollution, mainly caused by diesel cars. Even though the list of symptoms is worryingly long, the Government’s plan to bring safe air to all Britons is conspicuous by its absence. As we begin the process to exit the EU, any legislation around air quality should take the best of the current EU standards and make them even better.”