People in Barking and Dagenham among worst hit by air pollution, study shows

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 December 2019

A British Heart Foundation study has named the most polluted places in the UK. Picture: PA/Press Association Images

A British Heart Foundation study has named the most polluted places in the UK. Picture: PA/Press Association Images

PA/Press Association Images

Barking and Dagenham is among the top 10 worst places for air pollution, a study shows.

Jacob West from the British Heart Foundation. Picture: BHFJacob West from the British Heart Foundation. Picture: BHF

Levels of pollution in the borough increase the risk of an early death by the equivalent of smoking an average 153 cigarettes a year, a British Heart Foundation (BHF) study shows.

Barking and Dagenham's annual average PM2.5 - tiny bits of dust, soot or drops of liquid in the air measuring no more than 2.5 micrometres (μgm) - is 12.0, making it the eighth worst place for air pollution in the UK, according to the study.

Neighbouring Newham is the worst with 12.5μgm, equivalent to smoking 159 cigarettes a year.

A Barking and Dagenham Council spokesman said because the borough straddles the A12 and A13 people - especially schoolchildren - are exposed to dirty air.

He added: "The A13 is one of the most polluted roads which makes for an unpleasant environment for pedestrians, cyclists and those living nearby."

The local authority has teamed up with TfL on proposals to tunnel a 1.3km stretch of the A13 between the Lodge Avenue flyover and the Goresbrook interchange.

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It expects the tunnel will reduce traffic above ground, with lower levels of noise and air pollution.

Next year Barking and Dagenham cabinet chiefs will scrutinise an air quality action plan with measures including limiting emissions from building sites, action against engine-idlers, tree-planting and awareness raising.

The spokesman said a low emission neighbourhood would be introduced in Becontree with "enforcement tools" used to reduce traffic there.

PM2.5 can have a seriously detrimental effect on heart health, worsening existing conditions and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, BHF research has shown.

The BHF branded toxic air a public health emergency, urging the next government to adopt into law tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) pollution limits.

The charity's Jacob West said: "Unless we take radical measures now, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame."

A government spokeswoman said its £3.5billion plans include ambitious targets for cleaning up toxic air.

To crunch the numbers, the BHF compared estimates of the years of life lost due to smoking to those lost and attributed to PM2.5

Average daily PM2.5 in the 10 worst-polluted local authorities is 12.2 μgm-3 - which would be the same as smoking 155 cigarettes per year.

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