air-pollution-brum

Jeremy Corbyn’s Energy and Environment manifesto acknowledges that 29,000 people die early every year because of polluted air and one of his eight campaign proposals is for “Cleaner air – tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full   independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution”.

The government has agreed to improve their plan to curb emissions after a High Court ruling. Documents revealed during the case showed the Treasury had blocked plans to charge diesel cars to enter towns and cities blighted by air pollution, concerned about the political impact of angering motorists.

Following December’s review of the high incidence of ill-health and premature death in Birmingham and other cities, The Times today reports that nitrogen oxides from diesel engines are one of the main pollutants, inflaming the lungs, causing respiratory diseases such as asthma and are linked to a raised risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Data from King’s College London showed that Brixton Road in south London breached nitrogen dioxide pollution limits for the entire year in the first five days of 2017.

Pollution also increases the risk of dementia for those living near a busy road, according to a study published this week.

Research published in the Lancet followed ‘emerging evidence’ which suggested that living near major roads might adversely affect mental activity. As little is known about its relationship with the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, funded research investigating this association. It involved nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. The abstract (link above) describes the method used and gives the information that 243,611 cases of dementia were diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads. Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:

  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m

No association was found with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

As the BBC website reported, the Canadian analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic. It added that the researchers adjusted the data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking.

Whilst celebrating Birmingham City Council’s award which will be used to provide ‘state-of-the-art’ hydrogen fuel cell buses, more rapid and effective political action will be taken only when public awareness rises. To this end, a few references to the region’s research into cleaner modes of transport by road, rail and water follow:

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