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Car and van emissions cost NHS and society £6 billion each year, says new research


Health damage effects associated with car and van emissions is costing the NHS and society £6 billion each year, researchers at the University of Oxford and University of Bath have found.

Ahead of Clean Air Day on June 21, researchers have produced a new report - Health costs of air pollution from cars and vans - which states that the health damage effects associated with diesel vehicle emissions are around 20 times greater than electric vehicles and at least five times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles.

Exposure to PM2.5 and NOX is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths.

Chris Large, senior partner at, Global Action Plan, which coordinates Clean Air Day, said: “This report clearly illustrates the true cost of air pollution from each petrol and diesel car and van, particularly in inner cities.

"Swapping one in four car journeys in urban areas for walking or cycling could save more than £1.1 billion in health damage costs per year.

"Switching one million cars from diesel to electric would save more than £360 million per year in health costs from local air pollution.

"This demonstrates the impact that people’s individual choices can have, so we would look to the government to use Clean Air Day as a springboard for year round public engagement through it’s new clean air strategy.”

The analysis has found that the health impact costs are significantly higher for diesel cars and vans compared to petrol, hybrid or electric vehicles over their 14 and nine-year lifetime. In inner city areas such as inner London:

  • Average cost to the NHS and society of a car is £7,714
  • The health damage cost from diesel cars is £16,424 and vans £24,555
  • Battery electric cars and vans are as little as £827 and £1,443 – the lowest cost
  • Petrol damage costs are £2,327 and £10,101 for cars and vans, respectively
  • Petrol hybrids cars have a damage cost of £1,824
  • Nearly 90% of the total £6 billion bill caused by emissions to the NHS and wider society comes from the impact of diesel emissions​.

Dr Alistair Hunt, lecturer in environmental economics at the University of Bath, added:  “Our research for the first time illustrates the individual cost that each car and van has on the NHS and wider society.

"Every time these vehicles are driven, they are having a significant  impact on our health, equivalent to £7,714 for an average inner London car over its lifetime.”

This research for the first time generated location-specific per vehicle costs calculated for cars and vans.

They used the DEFRA and COMEAP impact analysis, alongside fleet make up, pollutant emissions and miles driven to create a robust model of individual vehicle damage costs.

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