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Air_pollution_main report_WEB

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Page 21 of 122

Chapter 1: Summary Air pollution is not a new problem in the UK. The London smog of 1952 killed 12,000 people. Since then, changes in the way we live have also changed the air pollution that we breathe. Coal burning has fallen dramatically, but today increased road transport and the failure to control some exhausts from diesel vehicles has led to us being exposed to new air pollutants. Looking at different generations tells the story. As children, today's grandparents were exposed to soot and sulphur dioxide from coal burning. Those now in middle age breathed in emissions from leaded petrol. Today's children walk and cycle much less, and they inhale nitrogen dioxide and the tiny particulates from diesel-fuelled vehicles. Around the world, there are many examples where reducing air pollution has improved public health. It now seems likely that childhood exposure to air pollution has a lasting influence on health, so the gains from tackling air pollution today will be felt throughout the decades to come. 2 © Royal College of Physicians 2016

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