VitaMins Health: Air Pollution - a major mortality driver or just a lot of hot air?

Health behaviours and levels of morbidity are key drivers for future mortality rates and can be thought of as key components of the “longevity pipeline”. The levels of health and morbidity in a population today will be stored up and reflected in how long people live in the future.

15 May 2018

In this edition of VitaMins Health we explore the subject of air pollution.

We may have moved on since the days of the infamous ‘pea-souper’ smog clouds of the 1950s, but air pollution is still a major driver for ill health and mortality, especially in inner city areas.

The Royal College of Physicians1 estimates that around 40,000 deaths per year in the UK are caused by outdoor air pollution with exposure linked to a host of ailments including cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even dementia (a recent study showed that the likelihood of dementia is increased by living less than 50m from a major road2). They also claim the effects result in a cost of around £20 billion every year due to health service demand and loss of working hours. 

How bad is the problem?

The EU has set out legal limits for concentrations of a number of different pollutants in the air we breathe. Based on 2017 data published by the European Environment Agency, the UK is actually within the EU limits for the majority of these pollutants and overall levels of the main air pollutants in the UK have been falling since 20003.

However, every year around January time, there is a big splash in the media about air pollution as the UK breaks the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) for the entire year. The UK broke these annual limits by 6 January every year from 2008 to 2017. This year we managed to last until 30 January4, but despite this improvement, the High Court has reportedly ruled that the UK’s plans to improve air pollution is unlawful5.

The effects of air pollution will be experienced very differently depending on where individuals live and work, with urban areas much more heavily affected. Keeping up to date post code data and comparing individuals with experience in the Vita Bank will help pension schemes and insurers identify any emerging effects.
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VitaMins Health: Air Pollution

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