3: What are the health impacts of air pollution?

The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that air pollution is responsible for more than 20,000 hospital admissions a year due to respiratory or cardiovascular diseases.32 There is no comprehensive local data on the various health impacts of air pollution. However, research conducted by King’s College London and UK 10033 has estimated the following effects on nine UK cities:

  • Living near a busy road in London may contribute to 230 hospital admissions for strokes every
  • Living near a busy road may stunt lung growth in children by 5 per cent in London and 14.1 per cent in Oxford.
  • In Birmingham, the risk of outside-hospital cardiac arrest is 2.3 per cent higher on high pollution days.
  • Higher air pollution days are responsible for 43 more people going to hospital for respiratory disease in Southampton, 68 in Bristol, 98 in Liverpool.

Public Health England34 estimates that there could be around 2.5 million new cases of coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other health conditions by 2035 if pollution levels remain the same.



  • 32 Royal College of Physicians (2018), Reducing air pollution in the UK: progress report, London: RCP.
  • 33 Williams M et al (2019), Personalising the Health Impacts of Air Pollution – Summary for Decision Makers, London: King’s College London.
  • 34 Public Health England (2018), Estimation of costs to the NHS and social care due to the health impacts of air pollution.