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Air pollution linked to 40,000 deaths a year

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Andrew Holt | Photolibrary | Getty Images

Exposure to outdoor air pollution is linked to roughly 40,000 deaths every year in the U.K., according to a new report.

The report, a joint effort between the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said air pollution has been linked to a wide range of diseases from cancer to asthma, heart disease and diabetes. The report also said that damage would be inflicted "across a lifetime, from a baby's first weeks in the womb all the way through to the years of older age."

As well as being linked to thousands of deaths, the report states that exposure to outdoor air pollution costs the U.K. economy over £20 billion ($28.2 billion) every year.

"Taking action to tackle air pollution in the U.K. will reduce the pain and suffering for many people with long-term chronic health conditions, not to mention lessening the long term demands on our NHS (National Health Service)," Andrew Goddard, the RCP lead for the report, said in a release.

"This is not just a job for government, local authorities or business – as individuals we can all do our part to reduce pollutant exposure," Goddard added.

The report sets out proposals to tackle the issue, including the promotion of alternatives to diesel and petrol cars; the effective monitoring of air pollution levels; defining the economic effects of air pollution; and placing the onus on polluters, with political leaders implored to introduce tougher regulations and enforce them "vigorously."

"There is clear evidence to suggest that long term exposure to air pollution has a wide range of adverse effects in childhood, and exposure during early life can lead to the development of serious conditions such as asthma," Jonathan Grigg, representing the RCPCH, said.

"As NHS costs continue to escalate due to poor public health - asthma alone costs the NHS an estimated £1 billion a year - it essential that policy makers consider the effects of long term exposure on our children and the public purse."

Grigg went on to add that the public could help reduce their own contribution to air pollution through "simple measures such as using public transport, walking and cycling, and not choosing to drive high-polluting vehicles."