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Air pollution contributed to estimated 800 plus deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk, report reveals

PUBLISHED: 10:54 19 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 19 April 2014

Pollution in Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Pollution in Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Long term exposure to air pollution was a contributory factor in the deaths of an estimated 816 people in Norfolk and Suffolk over a 12 month period, new figures have revealed.

The statistic was revealed in a new report published by Public Health England - the first time deaths attributable to particle air pollution in all local authority areas have been estimated.

It estimated that over the course of 2010, the deaths of 450 people in Norfolk aged 25 or over could be attributable, at least in part, to air pollution - a total of 4,479 years of life lost. In Suffolk, the estimate was that air pollution contributed to the deaths of 366 people aged 25 or over.

The figures were calculated by modelling annual average concentrations of man-made particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM2.5 and their impacts on health.

The report says much of the air pollution is caused by burning fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity and from motor vehicles.

The estimates are made for long term exposure to particulate air pollution rather than short term exposure to high pollution episodes such as the recent Saharan dust.

However, the report says short term exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a range of adverse health effects including exacerbation of asthma, effects on lung function, increases in hospital admissions and mortality.

Dr Shamsher Diu, Norfolk public health consultant, said it was important to note that air quality had improved cdramatically in recent decades due to better monitoring and action, such as legislation.

But he said: “This is an important issue. Yes, there have been improvements, but there is more that could be done.

“It’s an area where we need to do a lot more work and we need joined up thinking, internationally, nationally and at a local level.”

Dr Rupert Read, the Green Party’s lead candidate in the east for next month’s European elections, said: “These new statistics, which show that thousands of people are dying because of air pollution, make it clear that urgent action is needed to clean up our air.

“It should be a source of shame for ministers. Yet the government is doing far too little to reduce air pollution.

“With pollution-related deaths in the East running at this level, it is abundantly clear that action is needed.

“We need clean public transport options, plus a huge improvement in the numbers of people cycling and walking. We need what I have been calling for consistently: a green public transport revolution.”

• Do you have a health story? Call health correspondent Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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