New research from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has led to the conclusion that those who live in the most polluted urban environments could be losing seven months off their lifespan. Breathing the worst-polluted urban air is, according to BHF, equivalent to smoking 150 cigarettes a year. The situation is such that some don’t think that our transition to electric cars is going to be enough.
This, according to Mathew Hassell, founder and CEO of some of the UK’s largest transport management businesses, including Transport2, CoacHire.com and Kura.
“The news that the toxic air in our cities is now actively shortening our lifespan is worrying but hardly surprising,” Hassell said.
“Given that 33 percent of the toxic emissions we produce come from transport, it is here where a revolution is needed – and quickly.”
By revolution, Hassell is looking beyond each of us swapping in our petrol and diesel cars for EVs. The amount of cars overall is a problem, whatever they’re powered by, he says.
“While greater uptake of electric vehicles is seen as the solution by many, this isn’t enough in isolation. We must do more to get cars off the road, meaning that investment in areas such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and shared transport will be the more sustainable, viable solution to creating a greener future.”
He also highlights specific problem scenarios where pollution spikes, citing the school run. One in four cars on the road during rush hour are linked to the school run. Hassell thinks that investment in school transport would have a large impact. This to an end of getting cars off the road as above, and therefore lowering emissions markedly. The impact he says, could “rival or even exceed that of EVs”.
‘There is no safe level of air pollution‘
Prior to parliament being dissolved for the general election, the government introduced the Environment Bill. Among other things, it committed to emissions targets, though these weren’t as strict as those recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The British Heart Foundation says that 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths can be attributed to air pollution every year. Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, calls air pollution a “major public health emergency” that has ”not been treated with the seriousness it deserves” and that “we will look back on this period of inaction with shame”.
Dr Mark Miller, contributing BHF researcher, said “there is no safe level of air pollution. The potential health benefits of realising these [Environment Bill] targets are enormous, allowing everyone to live healthier lives for longer”.