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MIT Study: Air Pollution Linked With Early Deaths In UK


Concentrations of PM emissions and Nitrogen Dioxide throughout the UK (image: Steve Barrett)

Well, it’s official. Air pollution sends you to an early grave in the United Kingdom. In a recent study from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics atMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers Steve Barrett and Steve Yim report that emissions from cars, trucks, planes and power plants cause 13,000 premature deaths in the United Kingdom each year.

Barret and Yim analyzed data from 2005 and found that car and truck exhaust was the single greatest contributor to premature death, affecting 3,300 people per year. By comparison, the report indicated that fewer than 3,000 Britons died in road accidents in 2005.

The report measured particulate matter (PM) which are fine particles, tiny sub-divisions of solid matter suspended in a liquid. Some PM is natural – from volcanoes, dust storms, grass or forest fires and others are man-made. PM emissions are highly regulated by governments, but many urban areas still violate PM emissions standards.

Let’s look at the data from a financial point of view. The total monetized life loss in the UK is estimated at £6–62bn per year or 0.4–3.5% of gross domestic product. In Greater London, PM concentrations are the highest, possibly due to higher shipping and aviation emissions because of the proximity of the airports to urban populations, and exceed EU standards. The report also estimates that non-UK EU emissions account for 30% of the 3,300 air quality-related deaths annually.

London is currently in violation of air quality standards set by the EU and the British government may face heavy EU fines if it fails to address its PM emissions.

The report was started by the Energy Efficient Cities initiative at the University ofCambridge and completed by MIT researchers.

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