Tackling London’s pollution will increase life expectancy, research suggests

Researchers at London’s Imperial College say life expectancy for children will improve by six months thanks to measures being brought in to tackle poor air quality in the capital.

A new report by researchers from the School of Public Health’s Environmental Research Group predicts that London specific air quality policies, alongside wider improvements in air quality, will increase the average life expectancy of a child born in London in 2013 by six months, compared with 2013 concentrations remaining unchanged.

They have found that in 2019 around 4,000 deaths in the capital could be attributed to air pollution, with the highest number of deaths recorded in outer London boroughs, due to the higher proportion of elderly people living in these areas who are more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution.

The research, commissioned through Imperial Projects by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, used known and projected levels of air pollution from 2013 up to 2050 to assess the impact on health of air quality policies. These include policies such as Low Emission Zones for Heavier Vehicles and the Ultra Low Emission Zones, due to be expanded in 2021; potential future London policies, and background trends resulting from the predicted effects of national and international policies in London

Using the above ‘Mayor’s air quality policies scenario’ the team found that London’s population would gain around 6.1 million “life years” – one person living for one year – across the population in the long-term, compared to if pollution levels remained at 2013 concentrations.

Researchers found that if London is able to meet 2005 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on particulate matter by 2030 the population would gain a further 20% increase in life years saved over the next 20 years

Life expectancy gains were found to be larger in Inner London, including in some of the capital’s most deprived boroughs, owing to greater concentration reductions in these areas.

Dr Heather Walton from the Environmental Research Group, Imperial College London, explained, “For our study we used a new method to produce the latest estimate of the burden of air pollution on mortality in London in 2019. It is encouraging that we predict good gains in life years across the population over time from air pollution reductions as a result of air quality policies, including those targeted at London.”

(Picture – Yay Images)


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