Town's pollution levels over WHO guidance as 65 die a year

Car exhaust

Exposure to poor air quality can lead to a number of health issues, including strokes, heart disease and lung cancer - Credit: Simon Parker

Environmental campaigners say 65 Ipswich residents a year die as a result of air pollution.

The news follows a report published earlier this year which found over 36,000 people in Suffolk live within 500 metres of poor air quality.

"Ipswich has had an air pollution issue for a long time," said Chris Armstrong, of Ipswich Clean Air Now (CAN).

"Currently, an estimated 65 residents a year die from it.

Ipswich CAN logo

Ipswich CAN are a local group who work to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution - Credit: Ipswich CAN

"The town's air pollution levels are several times above what the World Health Organisation recommends.

"The largest contributor to poor air quality in Ipswich is diesel and petrol engines.

"It is such a big issue."

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK.

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Exposure can lead to a number of health issues, including strokes, heart disease and lung cancer. 

It is believed long-term subjection to man-made air pollution in the UK has an annual effect equivalent to 28,000 - 36,000 deaths.

In 2013, nine-year-old Ella Addo-Kissi-Debrah was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death. 

"As more cars, buses and lorries enter the town, there will be more and more people who struggle with health problems", said Mr Armstrong.

"Breathing issues such as asthma will only worsen, as will conditions such as heart disease and diabetes."

Ipswich CAN aims to carry on raising awareness, while also lobbying for change from local authorities.

"For a number of years it felt like we were banging our heads against a wall trying to get them to do something about it," said Mr Armstrong. 

"It feels like there is some movement now, but it's not happening at the speed it needs to."

Traffic on an Ipswich road

Chris Armstrong highlighted diesel and petrol engines as "the largest contributor to poor air quality in Ipswich" - Credit: Archant/Gregg Brown

Andrew Reid, cabinet member for public health and public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: "We recognise that air pollution is one of the largest environmental health risks we face today, which is why we all have a responsibility to do what we can to improve air quality.

"Suffolk County Council works closely with district and borough councils, NHS, UKHSA and other Air Quality Stakeholders to review and discuss the current Air Quality situation across Suffolk and develop plans for the future.

Cllr Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities. Picture: Simo

Cllr Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities. Picture: Simon Lee Photography - Credit: Simon Lee Photography

"The Suffolk Air Quality Profile was developed and published in 2021 which included an aim to develop the Suffolk County Council Public Health & Communities Air Quality Action Plan. 

"Suffolk County Council has been working closely with Ipswich Borough Council to identify the actions we can take to positively impact on air quality in Ipswich. It also supports the ongoing anti-idling campaigns at schools across Ipswich. A recent workshop on Air Quality that was held with transport and planning leads included discussions on Ipswich, with outcomes that will feed into the Air Quality Action Plan and we are also planning further community engagement in Ipswich after the summer.

"A considerable number of schemes and campaigns are already in place across Suffolk which support active and green travel, reduce emissions from vehicles and improve the knowledge of the population and professionals."

Ipswich Borough Councillor Phil Smart has explained the data behind the studies. Picture: SUFFOLK CO

Ipswich Borough Councillor Phil Smart has explained the data behind the studies. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Contributed

Phil Smart, Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for environment and climate change, said: "Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) were declared in Ipswich as the annual mean objective level for nitrogen dioxide associated with transport pollution was exceeded and our Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) was put into operation to identify the improvements needed within the AQMAs.

"We have a comprehensive monitoring programme and review this regularly as part of our working plan to identify improvements needed.

"Air pollution is mainly caused by traffic and Suffolk County Council is the highways authority."