18.06.2024

Expanding ULEZ scheme won’t have any effect on slashing lung cancer rates

Expanding ‘s hated ULEZ zone might only prevent at maximum one case of lung every year, according to a TfL-commissioned review. A 197-page document, used to justify ‘s controversial decision to widen the hated scheme to cover all 32 boroughs from late August, acknowledged the impacts on cancer rates specifically would be ‘nominal’.

But the impact on drivers won’t be, with motorists to be slapped with a £12.50 daily fee for using their vehicle within the Ultra Low Emission Zone unless they meet the required emissions standards.

It comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today warned Londoners risk getting lung cancer without the expansion.

London pollution levels frequently break recommended limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM2.5 — particles in the air that are invisible to the human eye but can get into the blood and penetrate deep into the lungs.

Sadiq Khan has made a controversial decision to widen the scheme to cover all 32 boroughs from late August. Motorists will be slapped with a £12.50 daily fee for using their vehicle within the Ultra Low Emission Zone, unless they meet the required emissions standards

Sadiq Khan has made a controversial decision to widen the scheme to cover all 32 boroughs from late August. Motorists will be slapped with a £12.50 daily fee for using their vehicle within the Ultra Low Emission Zone, unless they meet the required emissions standards

The particles are mainly produced by burning fossil fuels, such as from traffic and power generation, and have been liked to everything dementia to heart disease.

Under the worst-case modelling given to Sadiq Khan’s office 955 Londoners are expected to be struck down with lung cancer every year.

But 954 — one fewer — would be diagnosed annually if the entirety of London fell victim to the ULEZ curbs, the same projections claimed.

Moderate assumptions on air pollution exposure, and its impact on lung cancer rate, predict the scheme will have no effect, however.

What are the ULEZ required emissions standards?

To meet the ULEZ emissions standard, all vehicles must meet the required Euro emissions standard for their vehicle and emission type.

The ULEZ standards are:

• Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)
• Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
• Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles

One thinktank today said Labour had failed to make a strong enough case for ULEZ’s supposed health benefits.

Andy Mayer, energy analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘Emissions of PM2.5 air pollution linked to lung cancer has fallen 85 per cent in the UK since 1970, while lung cancer mortality has fallen 31 per cent, showing no strong link.

‘Only 12 per cent of PM2.5 emissions come from road transport, and less in London where 42 per cent of people don’t own a car.

‘It seems implausible that small changes in vehicle use in outer London will cause measurable changes in health data generally, let alone for specific conditions, let alone as justification for a new tax.’

Instead, Mr Mayer said the costs of ULEZ would have negative health impacts of its own.

He added: ‘What ULEZ will do is force working people on lower salaries to sell their cars and vans, lose their jobs, and force them into poverty.

‘Given we know incidence of lung cancer is more than twice as high for the lowest earners than the highest, the tax could do far more harm than good.’

The 2022 review, carried out by the consultancy firm Jacobs, found the proposed expansion would only result in ‘a minor reduction (-1.3 per cent) in the average exposure of the population of Greater London to NO2’.

It would also only see ‘negligible reductions (-0.1 per cent) in average exposure to PM2.5’, it said.

However, the report only factored in the effects widening the ULEZ would have on cancer using one type of pollutant — PM2.5.

The analysis did not include cancer incidence estimates for NO2, considered one of the most dangerous types of pollutant due to uncertainties on this data.

That mayor hated Ultra Low Emission Zone will see motorists to be slapped with a £12.50 daily fee for using their vehicle if it fails to meet his emissions standards

That mayor hated Ultra Low Emission Zone will see motorists to be slapped with a £12.50 daily fee for using their vehicle if it fails to meet his emissions standards

Protesters gather during a protest at Trafalgar Square in April to voice their opposition to the extension of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone that is due to extend its boundary to the fullest extent of Greater London during August 2023

Protesters gather during a protest at Trafalgar Square in April to voice their opposition to the extension of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone that is due to extend its boundary to the fullest extent of Greater London during August 2023

The review, published in May 2022, uncovered a plethora of benefits of expanding the scheme.

‘All socio-economic groups would benefit from reductions in average concentrations of NO2 and PM2.5, including approximately 1.5million people living in the bottom two deciles of deprivation in Greater London,’ it said.

These included reduced admissions for respiratory admissions, asthma cases, stroke and coronary heart disease.

‘From this analysis, it is clear that the Proposed Scheme would bring about important reductions in the health impacts associated with air pollution in Greater London and would therefore be an important part of London’s overall strategy for improving air quality and limiting the associated health impacts,’ the report added.

Air pollution is known to cause lung cancer.

Although smoking remains the biggest risk factor for the disease — which accounts for 34,800 deaths in the UK annually — outdoor air pollution causes roughly one in 10 cases.

An estimated 6,000 people who have never smoked die of lung cancer every year in the UK, some of which may be due to air pollution exposure.

Medics and health charities have been hugely welcoming of any scheme to expand ULEZ, however.

Professor Zongbo Shi, an expert in atmospheric biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham, told MailOnline: ‘It is hard to tell whether air pollution will contribute to the lung cancer for a particular person.

‘The evidence we have are from epidemiological studies – you compare people in cleaner or dirtier places, after controlling other factors.

‘Air pollution does have to be reduced, and there is increasing evidence the benefits outperform the costs, particularly when considering the mental health effects and cognition benefits of cleaner air.

‘Any measures that will help to reduce air pollution, particularly PM2.5 are welcome.’

However, he added: ‘Controversies around ULEZ are more of a political one, rather than a scientific one.

‘The costs and benefits will not necessarily be proportionate for individuals but as a whole, the population, particularly those who are vulnerable will benefit the most.’

Dr Christian Pfrang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Birmingham, also said: ‘Exposure to high levels of fine particles (PM2.5) from traffic increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

‘Recent research found that exposure to PM2.5 promotes the growth of cells in the lungs which carry cancer-causing mutations.

‘Unlike other pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, a large proportion of PM2.5 in London comes from regional, and often transboundary (non-UK) sources.’

He added: ‘Much of this background contribution to PM2.5 comes from areas outside of London, but an expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the whole of Greater London is still useful, as any reduction in PM2.5 as well as other hazardous pollutants from traffic will lower the risk of negative health outcomes especially in densely populated areas.’

The scheme is meant to improve air quality for purposes of public health and has broadly been welcomed by medical experts and and charities

The scheme is meant to improve air quality for purposes of public health and has broadly been welcomed by medical experts and and charities

Tim Dexter, Clean Air Lead at Asthma + Lung UK, told MailOnline: ‘The devastating impact that air pollution can have on our lives should not be underestimated.

‘Toxic air affects everyone’s lungs, it can stunt children’s lung growth, worsen long term lung conditions and even cause new ones.

‘Recent research provides further evidence that air pollution also has a role in causing lung cancer in non-smokers.

‘This is why schemes like the ULEZ, which meaningfully reduce air pollution, are so needed.

‘The ULEZ expansion across inner London shows that where action is taken, things can get better and millions of people can breathe cleaner air.’

This is not the first time Mr Khan has been criticised over data used back up the controversial ULEZ scheme.

In February, doubts were cast over a figure published by the Mayor to justify the scheme where he claimed toxic air led to the premature deaths of 4,000 Londoners.

In an open letter to those opposing his plans, Mr Khan highlighted what that meant for certain boroughs in the capital.

‘Research by Imperial College London shows Bromley has the highest premature deaths linked to air pollution with an estimated 204 lives lost in 2019,’ he wrote.

But Bromley Council leader Colin Smith hit back, saying said the study commissioned by City Hall ‘chose to ignore Bromley’s much older population profile’.

He said many elderly residents spent ‘their younger years in inner London experiencing the smogs and smoke-filled pubs of yesteryear’. He added: ‘It is complete nonsense.’

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told MailOnline: ‘Air pollution is leading to people developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.

‘It’s also been linked to higher rates of miscarriages and pregnancy complications.

‘And all schools across outer London are in areas where air pollution levels exceed World Health Organization (WHO) recommended guidance limits, which is leading to children growing up with stunted lungs.

‘The ULEZ and the Mayor’s other air quality policies will save the NHS around £5 billion over next 30 years, whilst without wider Government action the cost to the NHS and social care system in London is estimated to be £10.4 billion by 2050.’

They added: ‘That is why the Mayor has been clear that while the decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide was a difficult one, it is necessary to protect the health of Londoners.

‘Expanding the ULEZ will help drive down these diseases, and it has already allowed more than four million people to breathe cleaner air in inner London, cutting harmful NO2 concentrations by nearly half in central London and contributing to a greener, safer city for all.’

Meanwhile, Christina Calderato, Transport for London’s Director of Strategy and Policy said: ‘The scientific evidence is clear – there is no safe level for exposure to air pollution.

‘This is why the WHO updated its guideline limits for pollutants last year, recommending governments set much lower legal limits for the protection of health.

‘Further expanding the ULEZ will help us get beyond legal compliance and towards our much greater ambitions for meeting the WHO guidelines for air quality which will bring significant health benefits to Londoners.’

She added: ‘The impact assessment shows that there will be a positive impact on NO2 concentrations in London due to a reduction in the number of older, more polluting vehicles using London’s roads and a resulting decrease in harmful emissions.

‘All Londoners deserve to breathe cleaner air, and these are important improvements in air quality that will have a positive impact on people’s lives and long-term health outcomes.’

WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer.

Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.

There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition eventually develop symptoms including:

— a persistent cough

— coughing up blood

— persistent breathlessness

— unexplained tiredness and weight loss

— an ache or pain when breathing or coughing

You should see a GP if you have these symptoms.

Types of lung cancer

There are two main forms of primary lung cancer.

These are classified by the type of cells in which the cancer starts growing.

They are:

— Non-small-cell lung cancer. The most common form, accounting for more than 87 per cent of cases.

— It can be one of three types: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma or large-cell carcinoma.

— Small-cell lung cancer – a less common form that usually spreads faster than non-small-cell lung cancer.

— The type of lung cancer you have determines which treatments are recommended.

Who’s affected

Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It’s rare in people younger than 40.

More than four out of 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK are aged 75 and older.

Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the most common cause (accounting for about 72 per cent of cases).

This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.

Treating lung cancer

Treatment depends on the type of mutation the cancer has, how far it’s spread and how good your general health is.

If the condition is diagnosed early and the cancerous cells are confined to a small area, surgery to remove the affected area of lung may be recommended.

If surgery is unsuitable due to your general health, radiotherapy to destroy the cancerous cells may be recommended instead.

If the cancer has spread too far for surgery or radiotherapy to be effective, chemotherapy is usually used.

There are also a number of medicines known as targeted therapies.

They target a specific change in or around the cancer cells that is helping them to grow.

Targeted therapies cannot cure lung cancer but they can slow its spread.

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