Higher air pollution days trigger hundreds of cardiac arrests and hospitalisations for strokes and asthma

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ambulance in Leeds

  • New data from King’s College London show 124 additional out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and 424 hospital admissions for stroke and asthma on higher pollution days
  • Head of NHS in England warns “this is a health emergency”
  • Data covers 9 major cities: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton

New data being released by King’s College London and UK100, a network of local leaders, shows that hundreds of children and adults are suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrests or being sent to hospital for strokes or severe asthma attacks on days when air pollution levels are higher in nine major cities across England. It has triggered a warning from the head of the NHS in England that “the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency”, while Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said this is a “public health crisis”.

The figures show the immediate, short-term impact of high air pollution on individuals and sit alongside figures that show the long-term impact of air pollution, which is estimated to contribute to up to 36,000 deaths every year. In total, across nine major cities, higher air pollution days trigger an additional 124 out-of hospital cardiac arrests, 231 hospitalisations for stroke and 193 children and adults hospitalised for asthma.

The research, which will be published in full in November, is being released ahead of the International Clean Air Summit being hosted by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and UK100 this week (Wednesday 23 October).

It will bring together government ministers, businesses, the head of NHS England, mayors and political leaders from across the UK and the world alongside the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom and the former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres.

Following the publication of the Environment Bill last week, the summit is expected to push the UK Government to provide new powers and resources to local authorities to clean up our air alongside a timetable for implementing WHO targets on PM2.5, one of the most dangerous forms of pollution.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said:

“As these new figures show, air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks, so it’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency.

“Since these avoidable deaths are happening now – not in 2025 or 2050 – together we need to act now. For the NHS that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one fifth in the past decade.

“So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.”
Polly Billington, Director of UK100, a network of 94 local leaders, said:

“Air pollution is a problem in towns and cities across the country , with children and adults being hospitalised for life threatening conditions. That is an individual tragedy for each of them, and collectively a huge burden on our NHS. Local government needs additional powers and resources to address this public health crisis, alongside a timetable for when air pollution levels will meet WHO guidelines.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “London’s lethal air is a public health crisis – it leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness. An issue as serious as this requires urgent innovative action which is why on top of bold measures like the ULEZ and cleaning up our bus fleet, I’m hosting an International Clean Air Summit this week, bringing together city leaders, ministers, global NGOs and industry representatives. We need government to match London’s ambition and introduce a legally binding target of meeting World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by 2030 so we can clean up our filthy air once and for all.”

Dr Heather Walton, health expert on the project at Environmental Research Group, King’s College, London said:

“The impact of air pollution on our health has been crucial in justifying air pollution reduction policies for some time, and mostly concentrates on effects connected to life-expectancy. However, health studies show clear links with a much wider range of health effects. This project provides short statements of fact, backed up by supporting evidence. We have released a sample of these statements about the effects in a number of UK cities, ahead of publication of the full report in November. This wider range of impacts on our health provides additional evidence of the important need for further action to reduce air pollution.”

London
Higher air pollution days in London are responsible for 87 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 251 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Birmingham
Higher air pollution days in Birmingham are responsible for 12 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 53 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Bristol
Higher air pollution days in Bristol are responsible for 4 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 18 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Derby
Higher air pollution days in Derby are responsible for 0 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 16 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Liverpool
Higher air pollution days in Liverpool are responsible for 4 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 24 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Manchester
Higher air pollution days in Manchester are responsible for 6 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 28 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Nottingham
Higher air pollution days in Nottingham are responsible for 3 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 16 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Oxford
Higher air pollution days in Oxford are responsible for 6 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 4 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Southampton
Higher air pollution days in Southampton are responsible for 2 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 14 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.




Higher air pollution days trigger hundreds of cardiac arrests and hospitalisations for strokes and asthma