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Traffic pollution 'kills thousands every year'

Traffic
Traffic pollution is taking its toll on Europeans  

GENEVA (CNN) -- A new study suggests traffic pollution is killing tens of thousands of people across Europe every year.

Researchers looked at deaths in Austria, France and Switzerland and found that six percent -- more than 40,000 a year -- are caused by air pollution.

Of those, half are blamed on microscopic particles found in vehicle exhausts.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, also estimates that traffic fumes account for 25,000 new cases of chronic bronchitis in adults, 290,000 cases of bronchitis in children and more than half a million asthma attacks.

The research was led by Dr Nino Kunzli, from the University of Basel in Switzerland, and sponsored by the World Health Organisation.

He and his colleagues measured the concentration of tiny particles, known as PM10s, in the air and found they were much worse in towns, where levels of population and traffic are highest.

Call for Europe-wide transport policy

They found that a higher density of PM10s was linked to lower life expectancy, with people in cities generally dying earlier than they otherwise would.

The team calculated that the cost of treating illness related to traffic pollution in the three countries amounted to about 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product.

"Traffic-related air pollution remains a key target for public-health action in Europe," he said.

"Our results, which have also been used to economic valuation, should guide decisions on the assessment of environmental health policy options."

The WHO commissioned the report because it is concerned about the human and economic costs of traffic pollution.

It has called for a co-ordinated European transport policy to try to reduce the deadly effects.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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