Impacts of emissions policies on future UK mortality burdens associated with air pollution

Helen L. Macintyre*, Christina Mitsakou, Massimo Vieno, Mathew R. Heal, Clare Heaviside, Karen S. Exley

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to public health. Future air pollution concentrations are primarily determined by precursor emissions, which are driven by environmental policies relating to climate and air pollution. Detailed health impact assessments (HIA) are necessary to provide quantitative estimates of the impacts of future air pollution to support decision-makers developing environmental policy and targets. In this study we use high spatial resolution atmospheric chemistry modelling to simulate future air pollution concentrations across the UK for 2030, 2040 and 2050 based on current UK and European policy projections. We combine UK regional population-weighted concentrations with the latest epidemiological relationships to quantify mortality associated with changes in PM2.5 and NO2 air pollution. Our HIA suggests that by 2050, population-weighted exposure to PM2.5 will reduce by 28% to 36%, and for NO2 by 35% to 49%, depending on region. The HIA shows that for present day (2018), annual mortality attributable to the effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 is in the range 26,287 – 42,442, and that mortality burdens in future will be substantially reduced, being lower by 31%, 35%, and 37% in 2030, 2040 and 2050 respectively (relative to 2018) assuming no population changes. Including population projections (increases in all regions for 30+ years age group) slightly offsets these health benefits, resulting in reductions of 25%, 27%, and 26% in mortality burdens for 2030, 2040, 2050 respectively. Significant reductions in future mortality burdens are estimated and, importantly for public health, the majority of benefits are achieved early on in the future timeline simulated, though further efforts are likely needed to reduce impacts of air pollution to health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107862
JournalEnvironment International
Volume174
Early online date13 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Environmental Change (NIHR200909), a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, and the Met Office, and the HPRU in Environmental Exposures and health, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency and the University of Leicester. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the UK Health Security Agency, or the Department of Health and Social Care. We acknowledge health data from ONS, NRScotland, and NISRA, population data from the National Population Database, and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. The work of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology was supported through funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the contract “Research & Development Support for National Air Pollution Control Strategies (ECM: 62041) 2021 to 2024” and builds upon research supported by the Natural Environment Research Council award number NE/R016429/1 as part of the UK-SCAPE programme delivering National Capability. CH is supported by a NERC fellowship (NE/R01440X/1) and acknowledges funding for the HEROIC project (216035/Z/19/Z) from the Wellcome Trust.

Open Access: This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Citation: Helen L. Macintyre, Christina Mitsakou, Massimo Vieno, Mathew R. Heal, Clare Heaviside, Karen S. Exley, Impacts of emissions policies on future UK mortality burdens associated with air pollution, Environment International, Volume 174, 2023, 107862, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2023.107862.
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412023001356)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2023.107862

Keywords

  • Air quality
  • Emissions
  • Health impact assessment
  • Mortality
  • NO
  • PM

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