New tool highlights the significant health and social care costs of air pollution

pexels-photo-683535A new report and cost tool published by Public Health England has calculated that the health and social care costs of air pollution could reach £5.3 billion by 2035 unless action is taken.

The tool and report, created alongside the UK Health Forum and Imperial College London, highlights the potential future costs to the NHS and social care system of 2 pollutants; particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This has been part of a far greater government strategy to reduce air pollution in the UK that was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently.

The tool has highlighted that, without immediate action to minimize air pollution in England, the associated health and social care costs could reach £5.3 billion. These costs take into consideration diseases where there is a strong association with air pollution: coronary heart disease; stroke; lung cancer; and childhood asthma. When diseases with weaker evidence of association are also included, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; diabetes; low birth weight; lung cancer (for NO2 only); and dementia, the costs could total as much as £18.6 billion by 2035.

Key findings of the tool include that just a small reduction in the population’s exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 could lead to a significant reduction in costs. Figures are based on modeling carried out on a national level and in 2 local authorities, as detailed below.

If there was a 1µg/m3 reduction in PM2.5 and NO2 over a year, relative to the 2015 baseline, the cumulative number of new cases of all diseases and NHS and social care costs avoided could be:

1µg/m3 reduction in PM2.5 1µg/m3 reduction in PM2.5 1µg/m3 reduction in NO2 1µg/m3 reduction in NO2
Years Region New cases avoided (per 100,000) Costs avoided (£m/100,000) New cases avoided (per 100,000) Costs avoided (£m/100,000)
2015 to 2025 England 146 0.72 32 0.19
Lambeth 153 0.72 28 0.15
South Lakeland 119 0.6 33 0.3
2015 to 2035 England 314 2.42 59 0.6
Lambeth 310 2.35 57 0.54
South Lakeland 204 2.05 70 0.75

All local authorities can download the tool, and use it to estimate the impact on health and cost savings in their area under different air pollution scenarios. The tool is largely aimed at local authorities in particular as they are ideally placed to introduce air pollution minimization policies given the legal air quality powers they have locally. Until now there hasn’t been a way for local authorities to estimate potential savings, but now this new tool is available to them it should allow fully developed economic and financial cases for reducing emissions.

To read the full report, and download the tool, click here:

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