153 early deaths blamed on town’s air pollution

Exhaust fumes
Exhaust fumes

Toxic air pollution contributed to 153 early deaths in Wigan in 2010, a study has found.

Environmental campaigners have slammed new research which revealed the shocking scale of the air pollution crisis in Greater Manchester.

The report from Public Health England found that Wigan was responsible for the city region’s second highest number of deaths as a result of poor air quality - second only to the city centre.

And the borough will still have illegal levels of toxic air by 2020 if immediate steps are not taken to combat the health hazard, which contributes to early death via heart disease, asthma and a myriad of other illnesses.

Friends of the Earth (FOE), an environmental organisation, gave its own analysis of the government’s new air pollution modelling.

With the current political uncertainty potentially distracting ministers from addressing the issue of pollution, the environmental charity has released maps that show which parts of the country will continue to have toxic air for many years to come if the next government fails to take urgent action.

And in the wake of the revelations, FOE has also called for properly funded Clean Air Zones, which would be implemented by the end of 2018.

The zones would cover all places where air is otherwise predicted to be at illegal levels beyond 2019.

This would mean 58 local authorities should be required to impose restrictions on the worst polluting vehicles for the clean air areas.

Campaigner Oliver Hayes said fresh analysis of the government’s own data revealed the staggering scale of the public health crisis.

“Air pollution is predicted to continue damaging people’s lungs for many years to come,” he said.

“People in areas like Wigan would be breathing toxic air for the next five years without further action.”

Oliver added: “The current government’s plans for cleaning up our air are shamefully inadequate.

“With 40,000 early deaths each year from air pollution, and children’s young lungs especially vulnerable, this is a sickening amount of suffering, much of which could be prevented.”

Pete Abel, campaigner for Friends of the Earth Manchester said: “The air we breathe is literally killing us.

“It is pathetic that successive governments have failed to take on air pollution and condemned people from Bolton to Tameside to worsening asthma, heart disease and early death.”

FOE are now calling on MPs across Greater Manchester to work together to demand that the government commits to continued action to tackle toxic air.

Greater Manchester Mayor and former Leigh MP Andy Burnham promised a major drive to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, after a separate study found more than 64,000 people were admitted to hospital across Greater Manchester with respiratory problems, including 14,000 children under the age of four.

Early mortality attributable to air quality in 2010:

Bolton - 135

Bury - 96

Manchester City - 219

Oldham - 118

Rochdale - 104

Salford - 138

Stockport - 151

Tameside - 127

Trafford - 105

Wigan - 153