ALEADING academic has warned that Londoners' lives are being cut short by up to 10 years as a result of air pollution, prompting regional campaigners to call for more action to improve air quality in Tyne and Wear.
Last week it was reported that an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people in the capital were dying early each year due to pollution.
"In the worst cases, they could be dying up to 10 years early," said Professor Frank Kelly, an environmental health expert from King's College, London.
The news prompted a sober warning from Tyne and Wear's Be Air Aware campaign, which is championing the need for more awareness of the problem, and increased action to improve the standard of air quality in the region.
"Tyne and Wear is experiencing a rapid increase in rates of car ownership, and air quality has deteriorated in the most congested areas," said Ed Foster, environment and safety manager at Newcastle City Council, and a member of the Be Air Aware campaign.
"Poor air quality has a massive impact on public health and well-being, as well as the environment. If we all made small changes to the ways in which we travel - using more public transport, walking and cycling, for example - we would undoubtedly see an improvement in air quality.
"I'm sure I speak for everyone in Tyne and Wear in that we want to maintain our region's reputation for being a healthy place to live and work."
The London report shows that individuals suffering the largest drop in life expectancy are those with respiratory or cardio-vascular problems.
Thousands more, however, are having months or weeks knocked off their lives by pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and other particulates.
Research carried out last year in the North East showed that there was widespread awareness of the importance of air quality, but a significant gap in terms of people's willingness to alter their habits. Researchers found that 80% of residents believe clean air is everyone's responsibility, yet 60% would not consider cycling, and a further 48% would not consider car-sharing. It is this gap that the Be Air Aware campaign is aiming to fill, with increased publicity and public engagement activity.
In April, Be Air Aware will launch a campaign in connection with schools and a radio partner, to inspire children and their parents to make small behavioural changes to help improve air quality.
A new website will also launch to encourage people throughout Tyne and Wear to make their mark in the region's bid to improve air quality. Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside will each have their own page to highlight regional, air-friendly activity. …