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Air pollution is a threat to everyone, warns RCN

Air pollution, for example from coal fires or car fumes, is a threat to everyone in England, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.

This reaction comes after a new report was published today, Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, which found that air fresheners and household cleaning products are responsible for thousands of deaths each year.

Moreover, pollutants from everyday objects in the home and workplace are linked to up to 99,000 deaths a year across Europe, according to the report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The World Health Organization states that air pollution “is a major environmental risk to health” and is associated with stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. 

In response, Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions at the RCN, warned: “This report makes clear that air pollution is a threat to the health of everyone - whether they know it immediately or not.”

The landmark paper suggested that everyone is at risk - while babies, children and older people are particularly vulnerable.

It can impact the development of the foetus, including lung and kidney development, and miscarriage; while it can increase the number of heart attacks and strokes for those in later life; and the associated links to asthma, diabetes, dementia, obesity and cancer for the wider population.

The government must now grant local authorities new powers to close or divert roads where pollution levels are high, the report said - especially those near schools.

Cheesley added: “The UK needs to make a concerted effort to reduce air pollution as part of its overall ambition to improve the health of all of its residents. Failing to tackle this problem will lead to premature deaths, pain and misery for many, and a health system which simply cannot cope with an ageing population with multiple, complex conditions.

“There is a moral imperative to act now to prevent this and to make sure future generations breathe better air than this one,” she urged.

To read the report click here