Children who live in densely populated and air polluted cities may experience a shortfall in life expectancy, a new UK-based study has suggested.
The study, which used Birmingham — a major metropolitan borough in England — as a case study, found that children who lived in the West Midlands city could have their lives cut short by “up to seven months” due to the levels of air pollution.
According to the researchers at King’s College London, an eight-year-old born in 2011 may die between two to seven months early if exposed to projected future pollution levels throughout their lifetime.
The experts said after investigating the impact of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, two pollutants, which they have cited as the leading causes of poor health from air pollution, they made “absolutely shocking” findings.
Males were more likely to be affected by soaring pollution levels than females. Boys born in 2011 were expected to lose up to 41 weeks while their female counterparts were due to lose 35 weeks.
Children living in Erdington, a city which reported pollution problems, also had a higher likelihood of being affected, following that an estimated 75 to 91 deaths in the suburb attributed to pollution in 2011.
“These findings are absolutely shocking. They demonstrate the sheer scale of the major public health crisis we are dealing with in Birmingham today,” Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment at Birmingham City Council, said.
“One life cut short by poor air quality is one too many. This is exactly why the city is taking forward measures such as the Clean Air Zone and why we continue to work with other cities across the country to tackle this problem together, but we also need strong leadership on this issue at a national government level.”
Polly Billington, director of UK100, said the report should serve as a wake-up call to policy makers.
“We need to tackle this invisible killer which is cutting the lives of children and causing health misery for thousands of adults. By working together, local councils and central government can put in place ambitious and inclusive clean air zones to tackle the most polluting sources of dirty air and let us breathe freely,” he said.
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