Almost 80 per cent of people who are registered at GP surgeries in the district are living in unsafe levels of pollution according to a new study published today.

The new analysis produced by the environmental cities network UK100 shows 17.9 million NHS patients in England exceeds the World Health Organisation annual limit for PM2.5 air pollution.

A major Clean Air Summit is being held on February 14 in London to tackle the problem with new laws and new funding for local authorities to clean up our toxic atmosphere.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP and several mayors and council leaders across England will attend the summit.

Mr Khan said: “Our toxic air is a national health crisis, contributing to tens of thousands of premature deaths across the UK every year.

“I’m proud that London has taken positive action by cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet, encouraging clean air innovation, establishing the largest air quality monitoring network of any major city.”

PM2.5 are minuscule particles invisible to the naked eye that are small enough to pass through the lungs and enter the bloodstream, with legal limits being twice as high.

According to the Royal College of Physicians, exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to including asthma, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

There is also emerging evidence showing impacts on low birth weight, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Surprisingly, some of the top ten most polluted GP practices are outside London, including Barrow in Furness, Lowestoft, Penzance, Ipswich and Portsmouth.

The East of England ranked as the third worst region, around 2.5 million patients affected with 90,352 Epping Forest.

Commenting on the figures, Polly Billington, director of UK100, said: “These figures show that air pollution is a national problem. Some of the most vulnerable groups of people including young children and older people will walk to their GP, often to get help with respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England is also calling for NHS bodies to adopt partnership one successful scheme seen by Barts Health NHS trust working with their regional partners to tackle air pollution.

Also starting in April this year, the world’s first 24/7 Ultra Low Emission Zone will be introduced in central London.

“The NHS has already cut its carbon footprint by 11% between 2007 and 2015 and now we are working to cut emissions from the NHS fleet by 20% by 2024, with at least 90% of vehicles using ultra-low emission engines,” said Mr Stevens.

"Bold action like this has been estimated to help avoid over 50,000 cases of coronary heart disease and almost 10,000 cases of asthma by 2035. The UK100 summit this week is an important opportunity to come together and focus on the next steps we can all take to ensure a happier, healthier future for everyone."

More people are dying from air pollution than diabetes and road deaths combined in the UK, around 36,000 people every year die prematurely every year.

Recommendations at the Clean Air Summit may include the creation of local clean air zones where the most polluting vehicles will be fined for entering.

Additional plans include funding for low income families, small businesses and the NHS to replace older polluting vehicles with low emission or electric transport.

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