"The latest figures suggest 29,000 people die prematurely from [air pollution] every year in Britain, twice as many as from road traffic, obesity and alcohol combined, and that air pollution is now second only to smoking as a cause of death," reports John Vidal. However, "[a]fter years of focusing on climate change, government and environment groups are only now slowly waking up to the public health crisis."
"Faced with massive health costs, threatened with large fines for not complying with EU laws passed 13 years ago, and warned last week by the UN World Health Organisation that exposure to NO2 is harmful at far lower levels than the limits currently set by Europe, you might think the government would act. But Britain has spent nearly 15 years ignoring the problem, lobbying to extend timetables, working with other countries to weaken the rules and giving financial incentives for people to switch to the most polluting technologies."
"The result of official inaction is that air pollution has barely improved in 20 years and legal limits for NO2 are being regularly breached in most urban areas."