The average person takes about 10 million breaths a year.
And if those are taken in the UK, there’s a good chance the air is so dirty that it could be shortening their life.
A new report by a committee of MPs estimates that 200,000 people a year are dying prematurely because of poor air quality, which can lead to, or exacerbate, respiratory infections, as well as heart and lung diseases.
The Environmental Audit Committee report calls for the government to make air pollution a priority.
Lewis Merdler, campaign manager at Environmental Protection UK, which leads the national Healthy Air Campaign, says air pollution in the UK has a huge impact on the nation’s respiratory and cardiovascular health, and particularly affects children and the elderly.
‘Air pollution in the UK represents a huge public health crisis, contributing to more premature deaths than obesity and passive smoking combined,’ he adds.
Environmental Protection UK has a number of suggestions for ways in which individuals can reduce both their exposure to air pollution and activities that cause pollution:
n Use the car less and don’t leave the engine running while waiting.
n Set up or join an existing bike or walking group to your workplace or school.
n Don’t take heavy exercise on busy roads and on hot sunny days. Cycling or running increases the amount of air entering your lungs, so side roads, parks and footpaths are a better option.
n Air pollution will be worse when the sky is clear and it’s a warm day, so take extra care on those days, particularly if you suffer from asthma, other respiratory problems, or are recovering from heart problems or a stroke.
n If walking on a busy street, try to walk as far away from the traffic as possible – even a few feet may reduce your exposure slightly.
For more information on the Healthy Air campaign, log on to healthyair.org.uk