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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Understanding Premature Deaths from NOx 

 

We’re told we have a major health problem caused mainly by cars. We all know pollution is definitely a health issue, particularly in our cities. I’ve already written about the various sources of urban NOx and PM and have made the case that it’s factually inaccurate to blame poor air quality solely on passenger cars. But what should worry us all are the figures of premature deaths due to NOx pollution that are now firmly embedded in the media. We’re told that 40,000 people die in the UK prematurely because of NOx pollution.  So where does that startling number figure come from and is it correct?

 

In 2015 the European Environment Agency report on Air Quality in Europe said that 72,000 premature deaths were attributable to PM and NOx exposure in 2012 across 40 European countries mainly because of exposure to diesel emissions. The EU called these figures ‘a public health emergency’.  But if the EEA is right we should be seeing this massive death toll in our hospitals. This huge loss of life should be visible to everybody and we should be hearing about the extra strain put on the doctors, nurses and health services across Europe because of the thousands of these emission-related fatalities. But we’re not. And that’s why I wanted to look at those figures a little more closely.

 

The key word here is premature. A premature death is defined as one that ‘occurs before a person reaches an expected age. This expected age is typically the age of standard life expectancy for a country or gender.’ This means that every death before the standard life expectancy is a premature death whether it happens 20 years or two days before that life expectancy. Many of us die prematurely for a wide variety of reasons.  All doctors and scientists realise that this premature death number has only a limited meaning so they’ve given us another more accurate value and its YLL – or ‘Years of Life Lost’.   Years of Life Lost is defined as ‘The years or potential life lost owing to premature death and takes into account the age at which deaths occur giving greater weight to deaths at a younger age and lower weight to deaths at an older age.’ YLL therefore gives us more nuanced data than relying on the number of premature deaths alone.  

 

In the EEA report they give us the YLL number for Europe as 800,000 years of life lost.  That’s a terrifying figure.  

 

 

 

 But this number covers all of Europe - which is roughly 500 million people - and the EEA break this down to the number of Years of Life Lost per capita as 160 YLL/10 x5. That means 100,000 people together lose 160 years of life. For each person this works out as 0.0016 years or a more understandable 0.584 days - if an average life expectancy is 80 years or 29,200 days.

 

 

The EEA says that if the whole of Europe meets the EU proposed NOx limits of 40mg/m3 everywhere, we’d improve YLL by 205,000 across 500 million people or roughly - 3.5 hours.


 

 

 To arrive at this time figure of premature loss of life of between half-a-day and 3.5 hours directly attributable to NOx pollution all I’ve done here is look at the tables in the EEA report and check the numbers. The 40,000 figure that’s now widely reported, broadly unquestioned, across the media is because of use of the word premature and if we’re not careful this misunderstanding of the actual facts of NOx pollution will cost us trillions in transport policy and legislation changes and improve our life expectancy by only a relatively tiny amount of time. We absolutely need to clean our air but we need to apply real numbers and real science to this debate.  We’ve taken a badly phrased headline figure from an official report and allowed it to terrify millions of consumers.  If we can’t even accurately understand the numbers what hope have we to really improve our air quality?  Bad science won’t help us clean our air.   

 

Quentin Willson

Lead Spokesman for FairFuelUK and TV Motoring Journalist and Broadcaster




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ADD YOUR OWN COMMENTS BELOW THIS POST. THEY ARE VERY WELCOME


[ posted by Kelvin Beeston, 27.07.17 06:46 ]

I hate reading about deaths from toxic fumes form vehicles this is nothing but scaremongering as usual and the media jumping on the bandwagon, the government is doing the usual knee jerk reaction without considering the full implications not just of the U.K. But Worldwide, what happens to all the oil refineries and the wealth it generates globally, how many people will this action put on the scrap heap will Financial Markets be able to withstand such a downturn and what for just some do Gooders and the media. the motor industry without any forcing from government is improving emissions year in and out and if we tighten up on the MOT Test and help the needed to replace their old cars quicker then why do we have to ban all Diesel and Petrol Cars by 2040 it's complete nonsense and we drivers need to pull together and object to such threats we need to bring the Country to its senses, why is there no mention of haulage vehicles, trains planes that all add to our pollution.
Then when we have absorbed all of this I fomation what about the loss of revenue the Fuel brings to the government how are they going to replace it and finally Fuel is not the biggest problem of premature deaths Smoking is the number one and then Alcohol which cause in excess of 120000 deaths per year why is there not a complete ban on these with immediate effect

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[ posted by Keith Brickell, 12.10.17 19:10 ]

The EU are having to revise there green house gas targets by delaying the date to beyond 2020 as more petrol cars are being purchased as apposed to diesel ones, as petrol engines generate mor greenhouse gas (co2) than diesel engines.

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[ posted by jim cairns, 21.03.18 16:25 ]

The four people pictured are just glory hounds, who each have a proven track record of jumping onto the first bandwagon that they think will enhance their careers and their sense of importance, they are in no way interested in any proven facts, as their only interest is self interest, and that is a proven fact.

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[ posted by Michael Fisher, 21.03.18 19:59 ]

I support the theme of this survey BUT it lacks the detail that is necessary to give a rational response.
Specifically, what are:
* the alternative methods available to reduce pollution;
* the current stages of development of those alternative methods;
* the costs of those alternative methods

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[ posted by John Halstead, 21.03.18 21:58 ]

A good piece of research just by looking at official figures - well done. The official vendetta against diesels is clearely a money raising exercise with support from the masses created by scaremongering. It's similar to the global warming scares where man made CO2 is blamed when in fact one volcano erupting wipes out all the "green" savings and there are several eruptions in various places each year. In the meantime we're crippling British industry with green taxes. Government ministers get shuffled around to various diverse jobs and they're not experts at anything other than conning the less thinking members of society.

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[ posted by Tom Gore, 21.03.18 23:26 ]

Forward these findings along with the petition.

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[ posted by Mr John Jefford, 22.03.18 11:51 ]

There are as we all know many more sources of air pollution but as the motorist is such an easy target it seems we bear the brunt of the blame fir air pollution , there are many ways the Government could improve fuel pollution one being make the fuel suppliers incorporate aditives to their fuel at their cost , we also forget that a vast amount if not all food is delivered by Road , we have in this country miles of now defunct railway lines that were shut down by the infamous Dr Beeching these lines if still in use would take many trucks & lorries off of the roads & large towns etc where the railways go into centres , thus would improve both air pollution & traffic congestion , just another Government cock up nearly as bad as telling hundreds / thousands of motorists to change over to Diesel powered vehicles which are now being demonised & yet again the motorist is having to bear the brunt & costs for the Government miss leading the motorist , will any Government ever own up to their cock ups ????? THE ANSWER IS NO !!!!!

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[ posted by Stan Gilford, 23.03.18 09:13 ]

I agree totally with Mr John Jefford's statement. It is what I firmly believe and I could not have put it any better.

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[ posted by phillip gainer, 27.03.18 16:00 ]

Why is it that in India, they are going to ban Diesel cars from a major city asap. The Indian Transport Authorities claim that one diesel car equates to seven petrol cars in terms of No2 pollution.. If something can be done to achieve No2 reductions further then action in that area needs encouraging.

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[ posted by Donald Crump, 13.04.18 23:28 ]

I support the objective of the campaign. The Years of Life Lost should be promoted as the rational measure of the effect of pollution, to replace the premature deaths measure. Make the legislators acknowledge this. I agree with Mr Fisher that further details are needed to reinforce the arguments.

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[ posted by david barker, 09.06.18 09:57 ]

if diesels are so polluting why aren’t the trees,hedges and flowers dead that line the british roads,the forests are stripped bare and dying around the factories that make the batteries for electric cars in china,or don’t chinese lives matter.

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