By Local Democracy Reporter
THURROCK has been named as one of the most polluted areas in the country and living there is the equivalent of smoking almost 140 cigarettes a year, according to a leading charity.
The British Heart Foundation has said Government data ranks Thurrock as the seventh worst town in the country for pollution and estimates show that breathing in the air is the equivalent of smoking 138 cigarettes a year.
The charity has analysed the towns worst hit by air pollution and found that Newham, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Islington areas of London are at the top of the list followed closely by towns including Thurrock, Luton, Dartford and Slough.
The shocking figures have been revealed as part of a campaign to have air pollution declared as a “public health emergency”.
Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the heart foundation, said: “Air pollution is a major public health emergency and over many years it has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“Unless we take radical measures now to curb air pollution, in the future we will look back on this period of inaction with shame.
High levels of pollution can have a “seriously detrimental effect on heart health”, according to the British Heart Foundation, and they can increase the risk of heart attacks, while also making existing health issues worse.
The charity wants the next government to introduce tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits because it believes the EU limits, which the UK currently follows, are insufficient.
Under current EU regulations, air pollution limits use a measurement of PM2.5 for the size of particles in the air. The heart foundation want to see this limit reduced to PM1.0.
A spokesman for Thurrock Council said: “To put the figures used further into perspective the Global Health Exchange Data used by the British Heart Foundation to support their claims show that on average each resident loses around 15 hours of life to PM2.5 which pales in comparison to thousands of hours of life lost on average to lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet and hypertension.
“Although PM2.5 does remain a concern it is also worth noting that the Global Health Exchange data also demonstrates dramatic falls in attributable mortality and years of life lost due to PM2.5 over the last 25 years with an ongoing downward trend.
“The council will continue to both monitor the situation closely and implement strategic action with partners to ensure that this positive trend continues.”
In October, the majority of Thurrock’s councillors voted in favour of the council declaring a climate emergency which aims to have all council business be carbon neutral by 2030.
However, it is yet to be seen how committed the Conservative administration will be to the declaration. During the meeting the Tories vote against the ambitious plan and Councillor James Halden claimed it would put the borough “out of step” with the Government’s national goal of 2050.
He made the claim despite Thurrock’s pledge being significantly less ambitious than the declarations made by hundreds of other authorities, including Southend, which call for entire boroughs to be carbon neutral by 2030 rather than just council operations.
In a statement the council said they are following the government’s “2050 plans to reduce emissions and become carbon neutral”. This will include investment in local transport including improved railways stations, supporting marshland around Thames Wildlife park and waste disposal agreements.
Air quality could also be made significantly worse under Government plans to build the new Lower Thames Crossing through the borough. Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates has said the project would be the “biggest road project since the M25” and lead to a significant rise in air pollution.