Reducing air pollution could save the UK £53 billion a year

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If you weren’t sure just how damaging air pollution could be, then this new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) will have you thinking twice.

One of Liftshare’s key goals is to reduce the number of cars on our roads by encouraging more people to share journeys together. Not only does splitting the petrol money of a trip with others help our members save cash, it’s also a more comfortable and social way to travel than other forms of transport.

So imagine our surprise when the WHO report advised that the UK could save more than £53 billion a year – or 3.7 per cent the nation’s GDP – by trimming back on damaging emissions. BusinessGreen reports that the figures come ahead of a Supreme Court ruling over the government’s failing to take a firm action on the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions.

Why do these emissions cost the nation so much? Well, the report shows that in the UK, premature deaths cause by air pollution cost the country more than £53.3 million in 2010, and looking at broader Europe, such pollution is resulting in lung and cardiovascular ailments that cost the continent $1.6 trillion a year. It’s clear to anyone that this is a staggering sum.

Commenting on the report WHO regional director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab said, “Curbing the health effects of air pollution pays dividends. The evidence we have provides decision-makers across the whole of government with a compelling reason to act. If different sectors come together on this, we not only save more lives but also achieve results that are worth astounding amounts of money.”

This news follows another piece that caught our eye in November 2014, which raised some interesting questions around the impact of poor air quality on children, as well as their learning abilities. The Grist article included quotes from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief Administrator Gina McCarthy in response to air pollution’s impact on young minds.

“While [the Environmental protection Agency] is focusing on the big challenge of climate change, we can’t ignore all the progress we’ve made and the fact that we still have more to do, even on these traditional issues,” McCarthy stated. “So, we’re looking at how particulate matter emissions are impacting our kids.

“We know that they disproportionately impact them from a breathing perspective, the kids and elderly, but we’re also looking at whether there are neurological problems as well. So the research continues, but the more we learn the more we know how sensitive kids are to these environmental challenges and these exposures. It means they are at much higher risk and we have to factor that risk into everything we do.”

Among the factors linked to air pollution were asthma, which can impact a child’s breathing from an early age, along with suspected links to ADHD, low test scores, neurological changes and more. It’s well worth checking out the Grist article linked above to see the full story. It raises some potential causes for concern where high emissions are an issue.

What is your view on exposing children to air pollution? Do you take steps to help curb this? Let us know below.

Image Credit: DAVID HOLT

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