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Air_pollution_main report_WEB

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Chapter 6: Summary Putting numbers on the harmful effects of air pollution allows policymakers to compare the costs of action with the benefits that will follow. This helps them to develop cost-effective plans, ensuring that we get the greatest benefit from investments in cleaning up air pollution. Calculating the impact of air pollution also highlights areas where the evidence base is weak, and where further research would be most useful. For example, we have a lot of information about the impact of outdoor air pollution, but much less knowledge about indoor air pollution. We also know very little about the long-term health and economic effects of childhood illness caused by air pollution. However, we already have clear evidence that air pollution is costing society dearly. It is forcing people to miss work and school, and to change their lifestyles to avoid exposure on high-pollution days. Exposure to fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants in the air we breathe is causing pain and suffering – and additional healthcare costs – through increased illness. It has been estimated to cause 44,750–52,500 early deaths every year. Emerging evidence suggests a slightly lower figure, and therefore we have opted for a best estimate of around 40,000 attributable deaths per year with a range of ±25%. The European Commission, the US Environmental Protection Agency and various other bodies have concluded that further measures to control air pollution are economically justified. The costs of cutting emissions are outweighed by the benefits of action, because it would reduce pain and suffering, lower healthcare costs and get people back to work. 78 © Royal College of Physicians 2016

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