Cutting air pollution ‘can prevent deaths within weeks’

Cutting air pollution can prevent deaths within weeks, according to scientists. They found the health benefits of clean air were “almost immediate and substantial” and stretched into the long term, saving billions of dollars.

“I was surprised at how rapidly the benefits arise,” said Prof Dean Schraufnagel, at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the report.

“Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects. It is critical that governments adopt and enforce World Health Organization guidelines for air pollution immediately. Sweeping policies affecting a whole country can reduce mortality within weeks. Local programmes, such as reducing traffic, have also promptly improved many health measures.”

A global review earlier in the year concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. The World Health Organization says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency”, with more than 90% of the world’s population breathing toxic air.