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  1. ITV Report

Deaths from air pollution at 'epidemic' levels - but new study claims not enough is being done

A new study claims that transport planners aren't treating the environmental impacts of transport choices as seriously as other concerns Photo: ITV News

There has been little improvement in air quality over the last 20 years - despite it being the possible cause of over 50,000 deaths.

That's according to a new study by two academics from the University of the West of England. They set out to explore why there has been so little improvement in air pollution concentrations since the UK signed up to international air quality standards in 1995, as part of the Environment Act.

50,000
estimated deaths per year which can be attributed to air pollution in the UK

Their study claims that transport planners have concentrated on preventing road deaths - but the environmental impacts of transport choices are not being treated as seriously, with issues such as emissions being insufficiently prioritised.

The study claims that planning authorities are not prioritising issues of air quality Credit: PA

Air pollution is perhaps the grossest manifestation of a general failure of UK transport planning to take the environmental impacts of transport choices sufficiently into account.

– Professor Parkhurst, UWE

Their findings indicate that air quality is also an issue of social equity, with households in less affluent areas tending to be exposed to much higher levels of air pollution - despite contributing much less to the problem, principally through driving less.

The two academics also claimed there was limited financial support for local authorities seeking to introduce air improvement measures such as low emissions zones.

Air pollution-related morbidity and mortality are at 'epidemic' levels and, although less obvious, are more significant than road transport collisions as a cause of death and injury.

– Dr Chatterton, UWE

The two academics are now calling for a strong political commitments to protecting public health - particularly those of young children, whose life chances they say can be seriously compromised by exposure to air pollution.

Their findings are due to be presented at Royal Geographical Society annual international conference in London on Wednesday.