Air pollution from vehicles and power stations is reducing life expectancy in the UK by an average of 6 months, the government has warned.
"It's a national scandal that the average life expectancy of people living in the UK is reduced by six months because of road traffic pollution," the Daily Express quoted MP Joan Walley, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, as saying.
Road vehicles produce a pollutant known as particulate matter (PM10) and the Government is currently missing targets to slash levels of this pollutant.
Although it has promised to meet the targets by next year, it is not clear how this would be done.
One idea is to spray roads so they attract and trap PM10. But campaigners argue it would be better to stop vehicles producing it in the first place.
Walley said: "Using dust suppressant sprays to damp down pollution on London's roads will help people in our capital city breathe easier, but it's only a temporary fix.
We need to tackle the root cause of the air pollution problem and clean up our transport system."
Numerous studies have shown that when levels of pollutants in the air rise, it causes a spike in deaths of people with lung and heart problems.
The news came as a separate study showed that second-hand smoke is still killing 600,000 people worldwide.
The findings showed that one in 100 deaths is linked to passive smoking.
This claims more than 600,000 lives each year around the world – an estimated one per cent of all deaths – a major study has found.
Children are the group most heavily exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, and around 165,000 die as a result, said researchers.
The World Health Organisation study is the first to assess the global impact of inhaling other people's smoke.
The findings have been published by the Lancet.
First Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 13:17