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The startling effect of pollution on the life expectancy of children growing up in London

New data has been published which aims to predict the impact of 2 different pollutants on the life expectancy of children born in London in 201, assuming they remained living in the city all their life. 

Diesel emissions are the biggest source of air pollution in towns and cities, and a source of some of the most dangerous air pollutants for health: NO2 and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). Diesel vehicles produce more of these dangerous pollutants than their petrol counterparts.

So, what did the researchers find out? Their calculations showed that boys are expected to live 9.5 months less due to the tiny particulates PM 2.5, and 17 months less due to NO– nitrogen dioxide. Girls are expected to live 9 months less due to PM 2.5 and 15.5 months less due to NO2

There are multiple sources of outdoor air pollution, however in urban areas the single biggest source is road transport.  Children in particular are vulnerable to the effects of air pollution from traffic. Even within the womb, a child can be affected by pollution.

It’s no surprise that research as emotive as this has caused people working in the medical profession to take a stand against diesel emissions. ‘Doctors Against Diesel’ is a public health campaign aiming to stop children’s health being affected by air pollution and supporting alternatives to diesel. Many people, rich or poor, spend their lives in cities like London and it does have significant effects on their health. It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all stuck breathing in the same air.

It’s also worth noting that the risks from air pollution do increase among those living in the most deprived communities, and particularly children in these areas. This is due to the combined impacts of poor housing and air quality indoors, the stress of living on a low income and limited access to healthy food and/or green spaces to exercise.

If you want to protect yourself against the harmful effects of pollution, the best way would be to avoid polluted cities, although of course this is not realistic for millions of people living in the UK.  A diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds is probably going to be helpful for those people living in cities or near main roads, however the research currently sits more with a few food supplements providing benefit. Read our insightful Air Pollution Survival Guide for more detailed information.

Photo by Brunel Johnson on Unsplash