The Observer view on curbing air pollution | Observer editorial

The government has been dilatory in the extreme in dealing with one of the most pernicious health hazards afflicting this country

Pollution has long blighted the air that we breathe. Complaints about fumes generated by coal-burning in London were recorded as early at the 13th century. The heavy smogs that descended on the capital in the 1950s killed thousands. Governments have long attempted to regulate the pollution of our cities: in 1273, authorities introduced a prohibition on burning coal in London due to it being “prejudicial to health”.

In recent years, air pollution has become less visible, but no less deadly. The noxious oxides and particulates that are linked to higher incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancer may not create the pea soup of industrial times, but they are estimated to be responsible for 40,000 premature deaths a year, a public health crisis on the scale of smoking or obesity.

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