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People in Tower Hamlets among worst hit by air pollution in UK, 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

People in Tower Hamlets are among the worst hit by air pollution in the UK, 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 154 cigarettes a year, a British Heart Foundation (BHF) study shows.

The East End's annual average PM2.5 - tiny bits of dust, soot or drops of liquid measuring no more than 2.5 micrometres (μgm) - is 12.1, making it the seventh 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.

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

Amanda Lui, a Extinction Rebellion Tower Hamlets member, said: "The damage air pollution is doing to our youngest members of the community is unacceptable.

"This research is fresh evidence of the climate emergency. People are dying as a result of the terrible air quality in our capital. The government must take radical action to tackle this."

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

A Tower Hamlets Council spokeswoman said: "Improving air quality is a key priority. We are working with the NHS, TfL and charities to help stop engine idling outside schools, introducing new green spaces and improving take-up of sustainable transport.

"The mayor's £200,000 air quality fund supports schools and community groups to improve air quality."

She added the council is promoting walking and cycling to help meet City Hall's target that 90 per cent of all trips should be made on foot, by cycle, or using public transport by 2041.

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 has 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 to curb air pollution, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame."

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

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