The report, by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), considered data from 2008 and estimated a loss of 340,000 years of life in that year.

The loss of life is equivalent to 29,000 deaths. While this does not necessarily reflect the actual number of deaths, the committee believe that air pollution and other factors have caused the earlier deaths of around 200,000 people.

The report predicts that if the annual average concentration of particulate matter (measured as PM2.5) were to be reduced by one microgram per cubic metre, there would be an increase in life expectancy from birth of about 20 days. This is compared with the current estimation of a loss of life expectancy from birth of six months.

This would amount to four million years of life gained over the next 100 years by people living in the UK. If all human-made particulate matter were removed, the predicted gain would be 36.5 million life years over the same period.

COMEAP chairman, Professor Jon Ayres, said: “The report clearly shows that particulate air pollution continues to have a significant effect on health in the UK.

“And importantly, that reducing concentrations of this pollutant would lead to significant gains for public health.”

The Committee acknowledges that expressing the effects of air pollution numerically is difficult but says the report is the most detailed examination of the problem yet.

You can read the full report here.

Alison Brown

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