The Bishop for the Environment has called for more to be done to curb air pollution as he welcomed researchers who endeavour to highlight “clear evidence” of the dangers of pollution.
The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, made his comments as new research suggests that pollution from cars and vans costs almost £6 billion in damage to health each year in the UK, with the worst impact from diesels.
A study by researchers at the universities of Oxford and Bath found the health costs was worst in cities, with the cost from the average car in inner London over the vehicle’s lifetime on the road at £7,714.
For diesel cars in the heart of the city, the health costs from pollutants nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles known as particulate matter or PM2.5, is as high as £16,424, the report released ahead of Clean Air Day on 21st June found.
The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, said the report was important as it helped to “bring clarity” on the controversial issue.
“We are slowly learning the full effects of our actions on the environment. And the consequences to our health from the burning of fossil fuels and the burning of petrol and oil are among the easier connections to make,” Bishop Arnold told The Universe. “We have known for many years that smoking is a danger to health so it is easy to see that fumes from vehicles endanger our health. These studies that begin to quantify the damage done are to be welcomed as they bring clarity and clear evidence.”
On average across the country, health costs from air pollution that could be attributed to a typical UK car running on fossil fuels over its 14-year lifetime amount to £1,640, while a van costs £5,107 over its nine years on the road.
Battery-powered electric vehicles are much less dangerous to health because they create no tailpipe emissions, though they still generate polluting particles through wear on tyres and braking.
The health damage from emissions from diesel vehicles, which produce far more nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, is about five times higher than petrol vehicles and 20 times greater than for electric vehicles. If every new car in 2019 were electric it would save more than £325 million in health costs in the first year, according to environmental charity Global Action Plan which organises Clean Air Day. And swapping one-in- four car journeys in urban areas for walking or cycling could save more than £1.1 billion in damage to health each year, Global Action Plan said.
Air pollution is linked to about 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, compared with 98,000 preventable deaths a year which are attributable to smoking, the report said.
Dr Christian Brand, from the University of Oxford and UK Energy Research Centre, said: “Cars and vans are responsible for 10,000 early deaths each year, and diesel vehicles are the main problem unfortunately.”
“Health effects associated with diesel vehicles are at least five times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles, and around 20 times greater than battery electric vehicles.”
Chris Large from Global Action Plan said the report clearly illustrates the true cost of air pollution from each petrol and diesel car and van, particularly in inner cities.
Picture: Traffic along the Princess Parkway into Manchester city centre. (Dave Thompson/PA).