The World Health Organisation has concluded that 99% of the word's population lives with air pollution above safe limits, resulting in 7 million air pollution related premature deaths each year.
A research team from Imperial College London have analysed various health studies looking at more than 320 low emission zones across Europe, and they have concluded that there are clearly visible health benefits from schemes restricting private vehicles in cities.
The main health gains attributed to clean air zones were observed to be reduced heart and circulatory diseases. In fact, a study of 69 German cities with low emission zones (LEZs) in place was reviewed and found that there was a 2-3% reduction in heart problems recorded and a 7-12% reduction in stroke incidents. Improvements were greatest for elderly people and resulted in health costs savings of EUR 4.4 billion.
The effects of the clean air zones varied from case to case, but the study did not find any scheme that deteriorated public health. In addition, a further conclusion was that having fewer cars in the cities cut the number of road deaths as well.
Rosemary Chamberlain, part of the study team, stated: "This review shows that LEZs are able to improve health outcomes linked to air pollution, with the evidence being most consistent for cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and strokes”.
The study was published in the Lancet Public Health journal, which is accessible here.
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Article published first at The World Economic Forum on 8 August 2023.