Over 1,700 asthma hospitalisations in London due to toxic air

Sadiq Khan has said today that further bold action is urgently needed to tackle London’s filthy air, as new analysis shows air pollution contributed to over 1,700 hospital admissions for asthma and COPD between 2017 and 2019.

Poor air quality stunts the growth of children’s lungs, creates new respiratory conditions and worsens existing chronic illnesses, such as asthma, lung and heart disease. The Mayor of London has called the analysis ‘a stark reminder’ that the health of Londoners is being damaged by air pollution.

The research, by Imperial College London, shows that the rapid improvement in air pollution levels reduced the number of hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions by 30 per cent – from 2,450 (2014 – 2016) to 1,700 (2017 – 2019).  

Furthermore, the largest percentage improvement was among children under the age of 14 – between 2014 and 2016, around 1,000 of those admitted to hospital with airway diseases were children under 14 with asthma. Between 2016 and 2019, these air pollution attributable admissions were reduced to 700, a 30 per cent reduction.

However, despite improvements, data shows that 16 per cent of major roads in London still exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and of an estimated 322 care homes in the city in 2019, 87 per cent are in areas exceeding the WHO interim PM2.5 guideline. All 322 care homes were in areas exceeding the stricter WHO guideline limit for the protection of human health, for both NO2 and PM2.5.

Khan said: “London's toxic air is damaging people's health, which is leading to many hospitalisations. This new analysis is another stark reminder that air pollution is damaging the health of Londoners right across our city, and that we must do everything possible to protect children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions from our filthy air. We have already made great progress in London in cutting air pollution and carbon emissions, but there’s clearly a long way to go and we can’t put off further action to protect the health of Londoners.”

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