Thurrock worst in Essex for air quality

AIR QUALITY in Thurrock is now so bad that the lung damage caused by living there is equivalent to smoking a cigarette three times a week.

Research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found Thurrock has the worst air quality in Essex.

Living in the borough is equivalent to smoking 138 cigarettes per year.

The BHF data found that living anywhere in south Essex was the equivalent of smoking a cigarette twice per week.

The organisations executive director of healthcare innovation, Jacob West, described the problem as ‘a major public health emergency’.

He said: “Unless we take radical measures now to curb air pollution, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame.”

The damage to residents’ bodies is caused by PM2.5s – a ‘fine particulate matter’ in the air, described by the BHF as ‘the most dangerous kind of air pollution’.

The particles work their way into the circulatory system when inhaled and can have a ‘seriously detrimental effect’ on people’s health, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The particles can also reduce lung function, increase the likelihood of chronic bronchitis and increase death rates in patients with lung cancer and heart disease.

Based on recent readings of PM2.5s in the air, the BHF said living in Brentwood was equivalent to smoking 129 cigarettes per year, and living in Basildon was equivalent to smoking 128.

Living in Chelmsford is akin to smoking 127 cigarettes per year, whilst the figure in Southend is 124.

In Castle Point and Rochford, breathing local air is equivalent to smoking 123 cigarettes per day.

In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed Stanford le Hope as the UK’s most polluted town, based on high levels of another toxic particulate matter called PM10s, which have been linked to cardiovascular illnesses and lung cancer.

In 2013, the WHO listed Thurrock as the most polluted borough in Britain, based on high levels of PM2.5s.

The Yellow Advertiser has been reporting on Thurrock’s air quality crisis for around a decade, based on data from the WHO and Government body Public Health England, which repeatedly published figures linking Thurrock’s poor air quality to premature deaths in the borough.

Government figures said up to 6.5 per cent of adult deaths in Thurrock in 2010 were linked to exposure to PM2.5 particles.

In 2013, figures showed the death rate from air pollution in Thurrock was higher than the national average.

For a number of years, Thurrock Council denied it had a serious air quality problem.

But when Government said it was going to impose a new Thames crossing on the borough, the council claimed it should not be forced to take it because it would worsen the borough’s air quality crisis.

In 2016, it admitted that it had the highest number of pollution-related deaths anywhere in the east of England.

The BHF has called on the next Government to adopt WHO limits on air pollution, which are even stricter than the current EU laws – which parts of Thurrock and Southend have been in breach of several times in recent years.

Dr Mark Miller, a BHF-funded researcher who specialises in air pollution, said: “Ultimately, there is no safe level of air pollution. But adopting stricter limits will be crucial to ensure that action is taken to effectively reduce air pollution.

“The potential health benefits of realising these targets are enormous, allowing everyone to live healthier lives for longer.”

*WALTHAM Forest is now so polluted that just living there and breathing the air is equivalent to smoking three cigarettes a week.

Research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found the borough has the second-worst air quality figures in east London.

Living in Waltham Forest is equivalent to smoking 156 cigarettes per year.

Only Newham is worse, where the pollution is so bad it is like smoking 159 cigarettes per year.

The BHF data found that living anywhere in east London was the equivalent of smoking between two and three cigarettes per week.

Living in Redbridge was equivalent to smoking 151 cigarettes, and in Havering the figure was 138.

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Charles Thomson

Chief Reporter Email: [email protected]