Five in every 100 deaths of people aged over 30 in Leeds linked to air pollution

AIR pollution is linked to five in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in Leeds, data from Public Health England reveals.

Leeds city centre
Leeds city centre

AIR pollution is linked to five in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in Leeds, data from Public Health England reveals.

Public Health England (PHE) is proposing a ban on cars idling in areas like schools or hospitals, while councils call for more funding to tackle pollution and improve public transport.

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The latest PHE figures show that 4.5 in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in Leeds in 2017 were linked to long-term exposure to air pollution.

The data only measures PM2.5 - small particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, about three per cent of the width of a human hair.

Long-term exposure to these particles can trigger chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease or bronchitis, and cause other respiratory problems.

Road traffic and some industrial activities are major sources of PM2.5 emissions.

The proportion of deaths caused by air pollution in Leeds has decreased since 2010, when 5.5 in every 100 deaths were connected to a high presence of these particles in the air.

Coun James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for resources and sustainability, said: "Leeds City Council is committed to improving air quality in our city to protect the health of everyone in Leeds.

"We recognise that like many thriving cities, air pollution exceeds legal limits in some parts of Leeds.

“Despite shrinking council budgets and limited powers to improve local transport, the council is working hard to lead the way on this issue and is taking a range of action to tackle pollution.

“Our fleet already operates more zero-emission electric vehicles than any other local authority in the country and we will be introducing a Clean Air Charging Zone from January 2020.

"As part of this, we are inviting businesses to apply for £23 million worth of financial support being made available to owners, leaseholders and operators of affected vehicles to help them prepare for the zone.

“We’re also tackling idling, promoting active travel and investing in public transport infrastructure to make it easier to leave the car at home.

“Everyone that lives or works in Leeds shares a responsibility for cleaning the air we share and there are lots of ways to help. Individuals can do their bit by using the car less often, sharing their journeys more often, and by turning off their engines when idling.”

Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said air pollution is a public health emergency.

He said: "We need to be able to live in safe communities, which includes making sure the air we breathe is as free from pollution as possible.

"If the Government’s air quality plans and any new local powers are to be successful, they need to be underpinned by local flexibility and sufficient funding, which needs to be addressed in the Spending Review.

"Councils also need local powers, particularly with regard to traffic offences, government support on planning and transport matters, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation."

Public Health England recently released a set of recommendations for tackling air pollution as, according to its estimate, 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK could be attributed to long-term exposure to PM2.5 particles.

Across England, air pollution accounts for 5.1 in every 100 deaths, slightly lower than seven years earlier, when it was 5.6 per 100 deaths.

Professor Paul Cosford, medical director and director of health protection at PHE, said: "We should stop idling outside schools and we should make sure that children can walk or cycle to school."

"Transport and urban planners will need to work together with others involved in air pollution to ensure that new initiatives have a positive impact."