More than 2,000 GP surgeries and hospitals in UK are in areas that breach WHO air pollution guidelines, study says
Matthew TaylorLast modified on Thu 25 Oct 2018 12.00 BST
Hundreds of thousands of patients who visit more than 2,000 hospitals and GP practices across the UK are breathing poisonous air that breaches World Health Organization guidelines, according to a new report.
The study found that a third of GP surgeries and a quarter of hospitals – including some of the biggest children’s centres – are in areas that breach limits for the most dangerous particulates: PM2.5.
These tiny pollutants come mainly from traffic and are small enough to pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream. They are linked to a range of lifelong health problems including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
Source: British Lung Foundation Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, which commissioned the report, said it was unacceptable that vulnerable people with NHS appointments were “being exposed to toxic air that could make their health worse”.
“People with heart and lung problems, the elderly and children are most at risk from air pollution,” she said. “It can’t be right that hospital staff and GPs must care for people in environments that could worsen their symptoms and could be putting them at risk of a whole range of health problems further down the line.”
The intervention follows a slew of new scientific studies over recent months that have highlighted the long-term damage air pollution is doing to people’s health, from asthma to dementia, damage to unborn babies to heart disease.
Last week the UN warned the UK government was endangering people’s health by denying their right to clean air, and the world’s biggest children’s charity, Unicef, told the Guardian it had refocused its UK operation to tackle air pollution because of the scale of the “health crisis” facing young people in the country.
Thursday’s report found that 2,220 GP practices and 248 hospitals in the UK – including major teaching hospitals – are in areas that exceed WHO limits for particulates.
Air pollution is a particular threat to children and can lead to irreversible damage to their growing lungs and a range of lifelong health conditions. The new study found that many children’s clinics and hospitals – including two of the biggest children’s hospitalsin the country, Great Ormond Street hospital and Birmingham Children’s hospital – are in areas that breach WHO guidelines.