Air pollution shortens the lives of more than 40,000 people in the UK alone today. Air pollution is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to have caused over 6.5 million, or 11%, of all deaths worldwide – more than twice the deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and ten times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. The WHO has estimated that pollution-related diseases cause productivity losses and result in healthcare costs that are responsible for 1·7% of annual health spending in high-income countries.
Pollutants come from a variety of sources, including road transport, agriculture, central heating systems, and industrial activity. Existing sources of pollution are not going to go away anytime soon, despite some much-publicised measures being proposed by governments and local authorities.