• London Ranked Worst for Air Pollution Health Costs

Air Clean Up

London Ranked Worst for Air Pollution Health Costs

Dec 02 2020

The UK capital has been awarded the ignominious title of city with the highest health costs caused by air pollution in Europe, according to a new study from the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA). Taking into account the financial losses incurred by premature death, hospitalisation and days off work, the research concluded that the annual air pollution bill in the UK capital is far higher than any other city.

Part of that conclusion can be explained by the high population density in London, which is the third largest city in the continent behind Istanbul and Moscow. However, such an excuse does not mask the fact that air quality in the British capital has been substandard for many years, endangering the lives of the nine million people who call it home. In addition to that health risk, this new report also quantifies the fiscal dangers of London’s awful air quality.

Costly contamination

The EPHA study examined data from 432 cities in 30 different countries across Europe (the EU27, plus the UK, Norway and Switzerland). Using major new low cost air quality monitoring technology data, they were able to determine levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone in the cities, although indoor air pollution was not included in their analysis.

They then consulted demographic data for each city and ranked them all accordingly, based upon the economic value of missed days at work, hospital treatment and premature death, among other health-related costs induced by the contamination. Overall, the study found that the 130 million citizens encompassed within its remit suffered losses of £150 billion each year, with an average per-city cost of £349 million and an average per-person cost of £1,156 per annum. That equates to roughly 3.9% of the average income.

Gloomy reading for Londoners

London came out top of the pile for social costs, with an estimated £10.32 billion each year diverted towards dealing with the fallout from poor air quality in the UK capital. That was significantly more than any other metropolis studied, with Bucharest (£5.75 billion), Berlin (£4.75 billion) and Warsaw (£3.83 billion) the closest rivals for the humiliating crown.

Elsewhere in the UK, Greater Manchester had the 15th highest costs among the 432 cities studied, with residents losing an estimated £2.18 billion per year. Plymouth had the lowest cost ratio of all British cities included in the report, losing a comparatively low £562 per person. Over the whole of the country, the cost per capita stood at £905, slightly lower than the European average.

Better transport controls required

As the chief contributing factor to air pollution in urban centres, road traffic must surely be targeted by governments across the continent as an area where they can improve. Many countries are already on the road towards environmentally friendly road transportation, with Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands already having pledged to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

The UK is slightly behind the curve on that issue, having earmarked a target of 2035 for a similar ban, though it should be remembered that even electric vehicles (EVs) can generate much PM contamination through brake and tyre wear. As such, it makes sense for cities to invest heavily in greener forms of getting around, such as walking, cycling or taking public transport.


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