Air pollution on the rise outside GP offices and hospitals finds study

A new report has shown that the air outside the offices of General Practitioners and outside hospitals are high in pollutants. This can aggravate the lung problems in patients of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) says the report.

The report looks at the air quality of 2,200 GP surgeries and 248 hospitals and has shown that the air particles called particulate matter or PM2.5, around them exceed the recommended levels from the World Health Organisation (WHO). When patients with pre-existing lung conditions visit these places, they are put at a great risk the report states.

The tiny particles of air pollutants are capable of passing via nose into the lungs and blood stream of the patients visiting these offices and hospitals. These can lead to asthma exacerbations as well says the report. The study was backed by the British Lung Foundation and was conducted by the Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants.

The researchers have said that this level of air pollution is “unacceptable”. Alison Cook, director of policy at Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants in a statement said, “It can’t be right that hospital staff and GPs must care for people in environments that could worsen their symptoms and could be putting them at risk of a whole range of health problems.”

A total of around 10,000 NHS health centres and areas around them were looked at in this study. It was noted that one third of GP practices and one fourth of hospitals are located in regions where air pollution is beyond recommended safe levels. Not surprisingly, the levels of pollution are greatest in major and moderately large cities such as London and Birmingham as well as Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham and Southampton. Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and Birmingham’s Children

Hospital were particularly vulnerable to pollution, the report said. Smaller towns too were not free from pollution says the report and cites examples of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, Cornwall, Ipswich, Westcliff-on-Sea, Gillingham, Worthing, Kettering, Basingstoke, Colchester, Hull and Chelmsford. Wales came up with 54 GP surgeries that were located in air polluted areas while Scotland had three in Aberdeen, Falkirk and Berwickshire which were in polluted regions.

Dr Maria Neira, from the WHO said that these hospitals and the GP surgeries were the “heart and lungs” of the healthcare system and no one who was visiting these places should be at risk of being exposed to air pollution. The British Lung Foundation also added that at least 12 million people are at risk of air pollution and its harmful effects. Improving the air quality can reduce the exacerbation and aggravation of thousands of cases of asthma, COPD, heart disease, stroke and lung cancers, the BLF says.

Air pollution is responsible for around 40,000 prematrue deaths in the UK annually say the statistics. According to a statement from a Defra spokesman, the Government would adhere to its Clean Air Strategy and said, “The forthcoming Environment Bill will include provisions to improve air quality.”

UK currently meets its own maximum legally recommended pollutant PM2.5 levels but this is twice as high as the WHO recommendation. This report comes right before the next week’s WHO global pollution conference.

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