Pollution can affect our health in many different ways. Long-term exposure to air pollution can contribute to the development of chronic diseases and increase the risk of respiratory illness. Fumes from diesel engines can cause lung cancer. Exposure to traffic-related air pollution causes exacerbation of asthma.
There is also a growing body of evidence showing that babies’ exposure to air pollution before they are born is associated with low birth weight, poor growth (intrauterine growth retardation), and an increased risk of chronic diseases in later life.
Studies have examined the impact of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on mortality and have found they could be linked with the deaths of 9,500 Londoners each year.
Research has also shown that people living in deprived areas are disproportionately affected by poor air quality, in part because these areas are often near busy roads, which tend to have higher levels of pollution caused by road traffic.
Living close to busy roads has been shown to have negative impacts on the health of both children and adults. Research by Dr Ian Mudway and colleagues at King’s College London showed children living close to main roads have lower lung capacity at age four.
A recent study presented to the European Respiratory Society showed that people with bronchiectasis (a condition in which the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened) living close to busy roads had a higher risk of death than those who did not live close to a busy road, and that this risk increases the closer people live to those busy roads.