Cars and vans ‘create £6bn in healthcare costs’

Using a car in London creates up to £7,714 in healthcare costs for the NHS from air pollution, research published today (6 June) has suggested.

The research, carried out by scientists at the University of Oxford and University of Bath, suggests 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.


Global Action Plan is seeking to encourage members of the public to switch to more sustainable forms of transport

As part of the project, researchers generated location-specific per-vehicle costs calculated for cars and vans over an estimated 14-19 year lifespan. They used the Defra and COMEAP impact analysis, alongside data on fleet make up, pollutant emissions and miles driven to create a robust model of individual vehicle damage costs.

For inner city areas such as inner London, the research suggested that the average cost to the NHS and society of a car is £7,714 over its lifetime, while the health damage cost from diesel cars is £16,424 and vans £24,555.

FULL REPORT: The Health Costs of Air Pollution in Cars and Vans

Battery electric cars and vans are between £827 and £1,443 — the lowest cost, while researchers suggested that petrol damage costs are £2,327 and £10,101 for cars and vans, respectively.

Dr Alistair Hunt, Lecturer in Environmental Economics at University of Bath said:  “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.”

Dr Christian Brand, Associate Professor, University of Oxford and UK Energy Research Centre, said: “Cars and vans are responsible for 10,000 early deaths each year, and diesel vehicles are the main problem unfortunately.

“The valuation of health effects associated with diesel vehicles are at least five times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles, and around 20 times greater than battery electric vehicles.

“These results raise important questions as to how best to develop effective and fair air quality and transport strategies in urban areas.”

Clean Air Day

Commissioned by the behaviour change charity Global Action Plan, ahead of the second annual Clean Air Day later this month (21 June), the charity is seeking to use the findings to encourage members of the public to consider how their daily activities impact air pollution.

In response to the research Global Action Plan has also produced a league table of English regions that contribute the highest and lowest costs of vehicles to the NHS.

London and Birmingham top this league table with London’s vehicles bill to the NHS totalling £605 million per annum, and Birmingham £150 million per annum.

Chris Large, senior partner, Global Action Plan 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 over £1.1 billion in health damage costs per year.

“Switching 1 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.”

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Clean Air Day


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