Intended for healthcare professionals


Still failing to tackle air pollution

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 09 August 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3802
  1. David McCoy, professor of global public health1,
  2. Alice Munro, public health registrar2,
  3. Carla Stephan, climate change policy manager3,
  4. Jonathan Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine1
  1. 1Barts and London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University London
  2. 2Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
  3. 3Medact
  1. Correspondence to: D McCoy d.mccoy{at}

New government plan does little to ease the crisis in UK towns and cities

After much delay, and only after a court order, on 26 July the UK government published a plan to tackle the scandal of Britain’s illegal and dirty air.1 Cities in Britain now regularly breach safety standards because of air pollution caused by traffic, in particular by diesel powered vehicles. The number and proportion of diesel vehicles have grown in recent years as successive governments encouraged their purchase because their greenhouse gas emission rates are lower than those of petrol vehicles.23

Between 2000 and 2016 the percentage of cars powered by diesel rose from 12.9% to 39.1%, while that of diesel light goods vehicles rose from 76.9% to 96.2%.4 The problem, however, is that diesel vehicles, especially under real life driving conditions, produce more pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These pollutants are especially harmful to infants and children and contribute to about 40 000 premature deaths a year among British adults.56

Although commonly referred to as an “air quality plan,” …

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