In their 2008 Report, The Royal College of Physicians estimated that every person in the UK loses an average of 3 days from their life expectancy due to air pollution (NOx and Particulates). This doesn’t sound very scary given the fact that average life expectancy in the UK has risen by years, rather than by days, due to a number of factors including the wealth created by a fossil fuel driven economy. So, they added up the 3 days for everyone to arrive at a total figure of 340,000 life years lost. Then, using a quite complex equation, they constructed a statistic of ‘40,000 equivalent lives lost’ per year with the expectation that it would be misinterpreted and misused. In a radio interview, Respiratory Physiologist and former member of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP), Professor Tony Frew, described the 40,000 deaths as a ‘Zombie’ statistic that refuses to die (1).
ABD Environment Spokesman Paul Biggs, who is a Biological Sciences graduate and retired cancer researcher said: “Be clear, the claimed 40,000 deaths per year doesn’t refer to real people or real deaths. There are a number of factors that influence life expectancy in positive and negative ways including genetics, lifestyle, wealth, environment, medical advances etc., but the balance of all factors is strongly positive in favour of increased life expectancy. If there was an early deaths crisis in the UK, the government wouldn’t need to raise the retirement age, would they? The North-South divide for life expectancy in the UK, that is evident in Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, is clearly related to wealth rather than air pollution. Let’s end air pollution scaremongering that blights journalists and politicians”
Notes for Editors
(1) Prof Tony Frew interview: https://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory