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05 April 2019

New research shows over 4,000 Londoners hospitalised in three years due to harmful air pollution

Study by King’s and Imperial College London finds capital’s poor air quality leads to around 1,000 London hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions every year.

 Traffic in central London

The research, commissioned by the Mayor of London, estimated that between 2014 – 2016 more than 4,000 Londoners were hospitalised because air pollution worsened their asthma or, in the elderly, serious lung conditions.

Around 1,000 of those hospital admissions were of children under the age of 14. Asthma is the most common reason for urgent admissions to hospital in children in England. The total number of asthma admissions for children in London over the period of this study was 11,000 – meaning almost 10 per cent of children’s asthma admissions are due to London’s air pollution.

Older people were also badly affected, with a high number of over-65s also suffering from the serious lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, which is made worse by air pollution. On average, over the period of the study, two Londoners over the age of 65 were hospitalised every day due asthma or COPD exacerbated by air pollution.

On Monday 8th April, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is launching the world-leading Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, most vehicles including cars and vans will need to meet new, tighter emissions standards or be liable for a daily charge to drive in the zone.

With road transport responsible for around half of air pollutants, the central London ULEZ aims to reduce toxic emissions from road transport by around 45 per cent.

It is estimated 600,000 people in London suffer from asthma, including 240,000 children. While hospitalisation due to asthma can be a relatively rare occurrence, it is still extremely serious. However, many more people with the condition who do not go to hospital are still affected by high levels of air pollution and have to use their medication, for example inhalers, more frequently.

Lead author Dr Heather Walton, from the Environmental Research Group at King’s said: ‘It has been known for some time that air pollution exacerbates asthma but health impact assessments usually quantify respiratory hospital admissions overall. 

‘This study provides separate estimates for asthma admissions in children and adults and for asthma/COPD admissions in the elderly. 

‘Analysing the health impacts of poor air quality is a core component of King’s civic responsibility and these results highlight that reducing air pollution in London should provide important benefits for asthmatic and COPD patients.’

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: ‘As someone who developed adult-onset asthma over the last few years, I know from personal experience that London's toxic air is damaging people's health.

‘This study is a stark reminder that air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable Londoners and I’m doing everything in my power to protect children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions from our filthy air.

‘That’s why next week I’ll be launching the world’s first 24-hour seven-day-a-week Ultra Low Emission Zone in the central London Congestion Charge zone, which will help clean our air and reduce harmful road transport emissions in central London by an estimated 45 per cent.’ 

The full report is available online.

Further information:

The central London ULEZ launches on 8 April 2019 in the current Congestion Charge zone. This will replace the existing T-Charge and is in addition to the Congestion Charge. For cars entering the zone that don’t meet strict new emission standards there will be two ULEZ charge levels: £12.50 a day for cars, vans and motorbikes and £100 a day for lorries, buses and coaches. TfL’s online ULEZ vehicle compliance checking tool has been used more than 3 million times:

If you suffer from asthma and are concerned about how air pollution may affect your health, Asthma UK’s website provides guidance on how to stay safe with your asthma on high pollution days:

For more information on the study please visit: