Pollution can cut up to eight months off life expectancy. This may not sound like a lot, but the causes of death are lung disease and other chronic illnesses.
Ministers warned that chemicals from car exhausts, ships and industrial sites were still having “a marked effect on health” despite efforts to cut pollution.
They insisted that air in Britain was cleaner than at any time since the 19th century but expected to miss targets to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particles.
Nitrogen dioxide and particles, mainly produced by traffic, irritate the airways of the lungs and can exacerbate lung diseases. Ozone at ground level is produced when pollution reacts with sunlight.