EVEN breathing can be dangerous these days. Air pollution is knocking up to nine years off the lives of people who live in pollution hotspots or have a respiratory illness. So says a report by the UK House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee.
Tiny particles of sulphate, carbon and dust are the most damaging to health, but nitrogen oxides and ozone also have an effect. The UK is in breach of European regulations for all of these, and could face fines of up to £300 million. Road transport is the main culprit. Power plants also churn out damaging particles but mostly away from cities.
Only a radical shift in transport policy will allow the UK to meet its targets, the report concludes. "But such a shift is unlikely to occur in the next 10 years, unless the government starts taking sustainable transport seriously," says Paul Firmin of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.