Pollution ‘cuts Birmingham children’s life expectancy’


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Media captionThe effects of air pollution on human health

Children who live in Birmingham could have their lives cut short by up to seven months due to the levels of air pollution, a study has found.

King’s College London researchers say that an eight-year-old born in 2011 may die between two to seven months early if exposed to projected future levels throughout their lifetime.

The Department for Environment said it was taking “concerted action”.

Birmingham City Council said the findings are “absolutely shocking”.

Birmingham has more pollution-related deaths than Manchester, according to the report, and should “reasonably spend” up to £470m a year tackling the problem.

‘Traffic pollution’

Males were more likely to be affected than females, the report said, with boys born in 2011 expected to lose up to 41 weeks. Girls were due to lose 35 weeks.

Children living in Erdington could be more affected, with between 75 to 91 deaths in that area in 2011 attributed to pollution. By contrast Hall Green saw the lowest number of deaths, at 46 to 57.

The study looked at the combined impact of two pollutants – particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide – which experts say are among the leading causes of poor health from air pollution.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide are a “good indicator of traffic pollution“, the report said.

Image copyright Joe Giddens/PA Media
Image caption There was a higher loss of life expectancy in Birmingham than Manchester, Kings College researchers said

“Somewhere between 150 and 700 deaths” in the city could be attributed to the 2011 combined pollutant levels, the report said.

Conversely, if levels had improved from 2011, the average life expectancy of a child born that year would have improved by up to four months.

Polly Billington, director of the clean-energy network UK100, which commissioned the work, said: “This report should be a wake-up call to policymakers not just in Birmingham but across the country.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, said that “air pollution continues to shorten lives, which is why we are taking concerted action to tackle it”.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment at Birmingham City Council, said the local authority was confronting pollution with its plans for a Clean Air Zone, which will see drivers of the most polluting vehicles being charged to drive their vehicles into the city centre.

He said: “As a father of young children myself, these findings are absolutely shocking. They demonstrate the sheer scale of the major public health crisis we are dealing with in Birmingham today.

“One life cut short by poor air quality is one too many, so this is exactly why the city is taking forward measures such as the Clean Air Zone and why we continue to work with other cities across the country to tackle this problem together, but we also need strong leadership on this issue at a national government level.”

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