Magazine article Geographical

Urban Air Pollution

Magazine article Geographical

Urban Air Pollution

Article excerpt

Over recent years, Britain's city dwellers have begun to experience an amazing improvement in the quality of the air they breathe. Gone are the all-engulfing smogs that left a trail of death and misery. Gone is the overpowering stench of raw sewage. Gone is the acidic air that caught at the back of your throat.

But don't be fooled: urban air pollution hasn't gone away, it has just changed. What remains may not be as visible as the 'London particular', but it can still have a devastating impact on our health. Government research has revealed that acute air pollution causes around 24,000 premature deaths each year, and there is evidence indicating that chronic exposure exacts a much heavier toll.

Even so, we've managed to address many of the problems. But in much of the world, clean air remains an aspiration. In the poorest countries, mundane acts such as cooking and heating are the fourth largest cause of death.

As Hugh Warwick discovers, many of the problems with our air need to be addressed on the local or national level--whether it's industrial-emissions controls, restrictions on car use or the banning of particular chemicals. But air pollution's global nature--so clearly illustrated by trans-boundary issues such as acid rain, destruction of the ozone layer, or the big one, climate change--indicates how vital is the need for concerted action. …

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