Apr 14 2015

True cost of Air Pollution to the NHS each year could be £53.58 BILLION

True cost of Air Pollution to the NHS each year could be £53.58 BILLION

‘’There are thousands of people dying throughout the UK as a direct result of air pollution.

The cross party Parliamentary  Environmental Audit Committee conducted an investigation into past and present Air Quality strategies and recommended in a report to the Government in December 2014 that there should be an Independent  Public Inquiry to establish why air quality strategies have failed and so that robust strategies can be put in place going forward.


The Government responded recently by rejecting the Environmental Audit Committee recommendation for an urgent Public Inquiry.


In November 2014  it was widely reported that the true number of deaths from Air Pollution could be nearly double what was previously estimated.

The figure of 29000 deaths each year in the UK was based purely on the impact of Particulate Matter and when consideration is given to Nitrogen Dioxide the true figure is likely to be more than 60,000 deaths each year.


What has not been previously reported is the true cost of Air Pollution to the NHS.


The Environmental Audit Committee 2010 report   estimated the cost each year to NHS caused by a Air Pollution could be  £20 Billion


This estimate is now at least 10 years old (taken from figures in 2005) so  with annual inflation it equates to £26.79 billion  equivalent today.


In the same report that it states that costs for the effects of NO2 have NOT been included.

Since it has been reported that the number of deaths from air pollution is likely to be doubled when considering NO2  to 60,000 per year , then it would be reasonable to assume that the cost of Air Pollution to the NHS will be double which means the true cost to the NHS each year could be £53.58 BILLION


There are simple solutions to reduce air pollution that have been ignored by the Government. One of the biggest causes of air pollution in urban areas is diesel pollution. In Sweden a clean diesel has been used to reduce PM by 30% and NO2 by 10%.

This could be implemented instantly and would reduce the pollution of all diesel vehicles at no cost. Why have the government not done this? If pollution is reduced by 30% then it could be the case that the equivalent cost reduction to the NHS would be £16.07 BILLION


John McDonnell MP said


“We now know the scale of the cost of air pollution and how existing policies are failing to address this silent killer. It is vitally important that the incoming government responds positively to the Environmental Audit Committee’s call for a public inquiry so that a clear policy programme can be developed to tackle this creeping catastrophe.”
Dave Davies of the Campign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry said



Lets hope that voters take the Governments failure to take even the most basic steps to reduce Air Pollution into consideration in May’



Labour                           Supported by some Labour MPs and Peers

Green Party –             Supports- issued a formal Press Release last year confirming support

SNP                                 waiting for formal response

Plaid Cymru                Supports- has issued a Press Release

UKIP               –              Supported by UKIP Environment spokesman


Conservative              Does Not Support- The Government rejected the EAC recommendation in a report on 1st March

Liberal Democrats    Does Not Support-Nick Clegg rejected the call for a Public Inquiry in an LBC interview this week




The Environmental Audit Committee 2010 report   estimated the cost each year to NHS caused by a Air Pollution could be  £20 Billion



(see page 11 of the report ;Health costs)

21. The main cost of air pollution arises from the adverse health effects on people. The 2007 Air Quality Strategy estimates that the health impact of man-made particulate air pollution experienced in the UK in 2005 cost between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year.16 These figures were provided by the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits, which includes Defra, the Department of Health and the Department for Transport. This estimate was based on life-years lost and the monetisation of this reflects estimates of the UK population’s ‘willingness to pay’ to avoid these health impacts.


23. The £8–20 billion total cost of poor air quality is likely to be an under-estimate. The Air Quality Strategy ignores the impact on morbidity, costing only mortality.20 There are additional costs to the NHS from respiratory hospital admissions triggered by air pollution. For example, in 2007/08, there were over 74,000 emergency admissions to hospital because of asthma and the NHS’s non-elective spell tariff was £612 million for 2007/08. There are clear links between asthma and air quality; Asthma UK estimate the annual cost of asthma to society at £2.3 billion.

The EAC 2010 Report also states;

25.  Nitrogen dioxide has not been included in past analysis of costs. Previous attempts to quantify the effects of exposure to this have not been successful, and COMEAP did not believe there was sufficient evidence on which to base any quantification of the health impacts. It has been difficult to disentangle the effects of NO2 from those of other pollutants.[23] No direct health benefits from measures to reduce NO2 have been included in the main cost-benefit analyses supporting the 2007 Air Quality Strategy.



This estimate is now at least 10 years old (taken in 2005) so  with annual inflation it equates to £26.79 billion  equivalent today.



Please see this link about Clean Diesel evidence submitted to the EAC.







The Government has published a response to an Air Quality report and has gone against the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee by refusing a Public Inquiry to investigate failed Air Quality Strategies which have caused thousands of deaths from Air Pollution.

The purpose of the cross party Environmental Audit Committee is to audit the Governments environmental policies and it filed a report on Air Quality in December 2014.


One of the key recommendations of that report was that there should be an independent Public Inquiry. The report said;

‘Recommendation 17:

In the past the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution would have helped to review air pollution and make recommendations for remedial action. The Sustainable Development Commission, similarly, might have been expected to address this important sustainability issue. Both no longer exist. In the absence now of an independent body responsible for air quality, the time has come for decisive action and we therefore support calls for an independent public inquiry to look at the required urgent action on air pollution(Paragraph 93)


The Government replied to that recommendation;

The Government does not support the request for an independent public inquiry to look at air pollution. We are working, and will continue to work, with all the relevant organisations to ensure a consistent approach to air pollution’


The purpose of a Public Inquiry is to established exactly why Air Quality strategies have failed in the past so that the same mistakes are not made in the future.

The Environmental Audit Committee investigated the problems of failed Air Quality strategies and recommended a Public Inquiry following scientific evidence which shows that there has been little or no improvement in Air Quality and that thousands are dying from air pollution related diseases every year.


Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Committee , criticised the Government’s failure to act now after repeated warnings from the Committee:

“This was an opportunity for the Government to pledge decisive action to cut the air pollution, thought to be killing nearly as many people in the UK as smoking. But Coalition Ministers have once again failed to face up to the problem and instead passed the buck to the next Government. We have been warning that urgent action is needed for the last five years and while this Government has accepted that there is a problem it has repeatedly failed to take the tough decisions necessary to sort it out.”

Chair of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith, is also supporting the campaign commented: “Air pollution is now reaching really worrying levels in London and other major urban areas.  We urgently need to identify the scale of the problem, its causes, and what solutions we need to adopt. An Inquiry could provide real help in doing so.”


Johns McDonnell MP wrote to the Committee in November of behalf of 25 MPs and Peers  calling for an urgent Public Inquiry commented


“New estimates of 1000 deaths per week in the UK from air pollution are shocking and unacceptable. I’m appalled at the government’s continued failure to act. Given existing policies to tackle air pollution are having no effect we now urgently need an inquiry into how we can tackle the mounting air pollution crisis.”


Dave Davies of the Campaign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry said

‘It is outrageous that the Government continues to pretend that it is taking proper action when the scientific evidence clearly shows that its air quality strategies have failed and continue to do so. Meanwhile thousands of people are dying.

On March 7th more than 40,000  people are expected to March in London protesting about Climate Change. The Government may eventually realise that voters will be reacting to their decisions on failed Air Quality strategies in May’s General Election.

If there was a train crash and 164 people were killed there would be an immediate and urgent Public Inquiry to establish exactly why it had happened and what urgent action could be taken to prevent it ever happening again.

There are 164 people dying from pollution every single day (based on the latest figures from Public Health England of 60000 deaths a year) yet absolutely nothing has been done to expose how this has been allowed to happen .

In London alone it is estimated that more than 100 people a week are dying from air pollution

It is the root cause of the failed air quality strategies that needs to be exposed. There are obvious cases like the London Taxi Age Limit. Boris Johnson stated in a report to the Environmental Audit Committee in 2011 that a new Euro 5 vehicle would create 5 times as much NO2 as a 15 year old vehicle. He then scrapped the 15 year old taxis claiming he had reduced pollution by doing so. The Mayors decisions are required by law to be evidence based, which it was clearly not. He refused to conduct any testing on taxis to prove that what he was going to do would reduce pollution. As a result the pollution created by London taxis has INCREASED; the newer cabs are more polluting than those that were scrapped. The Chair of the Inquiry which led to the taxi age limit was Tim Yeo MP . He was also Chairman of the company selling new taxis which drivers were forced to buy at £40k which was a breach of Parliamentary Rules. A complaint to the Standard Commissioner was ignored.’