Hundreds of doctors have urged politicians to stand firm on air pollution initiatives, warning they are seeing its “devastating health consequences” in patients every day.
Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to public health, linked to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK a year. The estimated cost to the NHS and social care of air pollutants is estimated at £1.6 billion between 2017 and 2025.
Keir Starmer and other senior Labor officials have alarmed health professionals after calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to consider expanding the capital’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez) following the defeat of the Uxbridge by-election.
Conservative candidate for London mayor next year, Susan Hall, has pledged to ‘stop the expansion of Ulez from day one’ if elected.
In a letter to Starmer and Khan seen by the Guardian, more than 400 doctors pleaded with them not to be bullied into watering down city-wide plans to cut air pollution levels in order to hunt the votes of a ‘vocal minority’.
The letter, signed by general practitioners, pulmonologists, radiologists, pulmonologists, paediatricians and public health doctors, said: “As health professionals who daily witness the devastating health consequences of air pollution air, we implore you to remain steadfast in your commitment to expanding Ulez. for the benefit of people living outside of London.
“Air pollution affects all of us from before we were born until old age. It not only causes respiratory conditions such as asthma, but also heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, strokes , childhood developmental disorders, lung cancer and dementia.
“Ulez is working. It has already saved lives and prevented many illnesses and hospitalizations.
The doctors said they recognized that less affluent people would struggle to switch vehicles or pay the Ulez fee, calling for its extension alongside “a commitment to a much more affordable public transportation system, frequent and reliable.
They wrote, “You cannot allow a vocal minority, who ignore science for their own ends, to bully you into watering down or suspending the program. It might get you votes for those people, but at what cost? »
Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and lung cancer, reducing life expectancy, doctors have said. Short-term exposure to high levels of pollution can cause coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks, and lead to increased visits to hospitals and GPs, they added.
Dr Jackie Applebee, London GP and organizer of the letter, said: ‘Patients come to London from places where the air is cleaner and tell me they have coughs they don’t have. never had before and they can’t exercise for that long without running out of breath. They generally think they have lost their physical form, but I think they are suffering from the effects of air pollution.
Dr Laura Jane Smith, consultant in respiratory medicine at King’s College London Hospital and co-organizer of the letter, said programs such as Ulez were essential in tackling health problems.
“My patients ask me why their breathing is so bad when they are doing all the right things: quitting smoking, exercising and eating well. The answer is air pollution.
“It robs them of their health and shortens their lives. Large-scale interventions to reduce air pollution levels, such as the Ulez extension, are long overdue.