Yorkshire academics say traffic pollution is as bad as losing a loved one

POLLUTION from traffic fumes can be as bad for people's happiness as bereavement or divorce, according to a study published by researchers in Yorkshire.

Air pollution is a danger to health.

Academics at the University of York have said the effect of nitrogen dioxide on life satisfaction is comparable to that of significant events in people’s lives.

In a paper - entitled Can clean air make you happy? Examining the effect of nitrogen dioxide on life satisfaction - Sarah J Knight and Peter Howley claimed that “the welfare gains to society from reductions in exposure to NO2 can be substantive”.

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The academics suggested that the effects of nitrogen dioxide are “substantive and comparable to that of many ‘big hitting’ life events”.

The research paper said: “For example, our standardised coefficients suggest that the effect of NO2 on life satisfaction is equivalent to approximately half that of unemployment, and equivalent to that of marital separation and widowhood, factors commonly associated with some of the largest wellbeing reductions in the literature to date.

“Given that the effect of NO2 is, to some extent, experienced by everyone (ie not everyone is unemployed but everyone is subject to a certain level of NO2 exposure), this suggests that the welfare gains to society from reductions in exposure to NO2 can be substantive.”

Concerns over the impact of diesel cars on nitrogen dioxide levels were raised by the Volkswagen emissions scandal in September 2015. And this week, MP Neil Parish, the chairman of the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, is expected to tell Ministers that owners of old diesel cars should be able to scrap their vehicles for cash in pollution hotspots.

Following the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015, a Department for Transport investigation found that 37 top-selling diesel cars exceeded the legal limit required for laboratory pollution tests when driven for 90 minutes on normal roads.

Drivers were encouraged to switch away from petrol under Tony Blair’s government and Prime Minister Theresa May has said that would be taken “into account” in future plans.