WHO figures show people in Britain are more likely to die from dirty air than those living in some other comparable countries
Sandra LavilleWed 17 May 2017 19.00 BST
People in the UK are 64 times as likely to die of air pollution as those in Sweden and twice as likely as those in the US, figures from the World Health Organisation reveal.
Britain, which has a mortality rate for air pollution of 25.7 for every 100,000 people, was also beaten by Brazil and Mexico – and it trailed far behind Sweden, the cleanest nation in the EU, with a rate of 0.4.
The US rate was 12.1 for every 100,000, Brazil’s was 15.8 and Mexico’s was 23.5, while Argentina was at 24.6.
The figures are revealed in the WHO World Health Statistics 2017 report, published on Wednesday, which says substantially reducing the number of deaths globally from air pollution is a key target.
The report reveals outdoor air pollution caused an estimated 3 million deaths worldwide, most of these in low- and middle-income countries.
Wealthy European nations had high levels of air pollution from fine particulate matter. The UK had an average of 12.4 micrograms of fine particulate pollutants (PM 2.5) for each cubic metre of air, which includes pollution from traffic, industry, oil and wood burning and power plants in urban areas. This is higher than the pollutant levels of 5.9 in Sweden, 9.9 in Spain and 12.6 in France. Germany had higher levels of particulate pollution than the UK at 14.4 and Poland’s was 25.4.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the report confirmed that deaths from air pollution were higher in the UK than many other comparable countries.
She said: “It is deeply tragic that around 3 million lives are cut short worldwide because the air we breathe is dirty and polluted. In the UK, air pollution is a public health crisis hitting our most vulnerable the hardest – our children, people with a lung condition and the elderly.