CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

We need to look at the pollution data carefully

08 February, 2018

• IT has been widely repeated that over 9,000 deaths occur in the London area, prematurely, because of pollution affecting asthmatics.

Yet government figures lead it to report that: “The latest data on healthy life expectancy… show that… Since 2000 to 2002, both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy have increased; the population is now living longer and spending more years in good health”.

That is welcome information, but it does not tally with a “fear storm” threatening widespread early death and blaming several kinds of pollution.

More needs to be found out from medical sources that would pinpoint pollution-related deaths and, if it is sufficiently certain to say so, noted on death certificates.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has reported that levels of the most feared particulate PM2.5 have fallen from their “score” of 20.00 (average days of moderate or higher air pollution) to 4.4, in 2016.

Similarly dramatic reductions are reported for NO2, SO2 and PM10 (though not for ozone – which has reduced, though not so dramatically).

How and why these government figures show a reduced threat is difficult to explain but other papers suggest that the measurement methods have become more careful and refined. It seems from these data that stringent new measures may not be as necessary as their advocates argue.

A final important point is that when fears of some public hazard are vigorously stirred up (perhaps even with the best will) many people will take things amiss and that, in itself, can damage health.

Before Camden rush ahead then, several ingredients are necessary to justify stringent restrictions. One is to produce and clearly publicise accurate figures of elements that are said to be hazards.

Second is to measure and accurately report numbers of illnesses and deaths thought to be affected by such hazards before stringent restrictions are put into effect.

Third, is to measure and publish accurate figures of changes (if any) in the supposed hazards that can be attributed to the new stringent restrictions; and fourth, there must be measures of illnesses and deaths for which the new levels of supposed hazards may be held responsible.

There matters should be coolly discussed and reported. I think we are still some way from meeting such good standards of administration of public health measures.

JM WOBER
Lancaster Grove, NW3

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