Birmingham’s busy roads increase risk of cancer, heart and lung disease

Traffic Published: 26th Nov 2019

Living near a busy road in Birmingham can increase the risk of lung cancer by 4.1 percent and stunt children’s lung growth by 7.7 percent according to new research.

The findings have been published in a new report by King’s College London which highlighted the increased health risks of living by major road in nine of the UK’s major cities – including Birmingham.

The results showed that on high pollution days in Birmingham, the risk of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest increased by 2.3 percent; there was a 4.1 percent higher chance of children being hospitalised with asthma and the risk of a stroke rose by 2.6 percent. This was all in comparison with low pollution days.

Dr Heather Walton, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health at King's College London, said: “This is the first time that health impact calculations for such a wide range of health conditions and cities have been included in one report. 

“While previous calculations have concentrated on deaths, life-expectancy and broad types of hospital admissions, our report includes symptoms that affect a larger number of people such as chest infections (‘acute bronchitis’) in children and effects on specific groups of people such as asthmatics. The project has worked throughout to ensure a strong link between publicly understandable statements and their scientific basis.”

Cutting Birmingham’s air pollution levels by just one fifth would reduce lung cancer cases by 6.4 percent and see 149 fewer respiratory-related hospital admissions every year.

There would also be 659 fewer children with low lung function every year and 165 less cases of coronary heart disease.

The report was based on research obtained by a coalition of 15 health and environment NGOs, including ClientEarth, the British Lung Foundation, and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

To view the full report comparing Birmingham with UK cities, visit the King’s College London website.