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Here's some bad news for those of you hoping to escape the forthcoming bird flu apocalypse which will, according to the usual cheerful prophets of doom, kill 98.7 per cent of the UK population by August: you're going to die eight months early anyway because of the UK's air pollution.

That's the gloomy conclusion of a Defra press release issued this week heralding a review of the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Although Defra says the UK's air quality has improved over the last fifteen years - claiming that "from 1990 to 2001 the improvements have helped avoid 4,200 premature deaths per annum and 3,500 hospital admissions", and that it's meeting current objectives for "pollutants like carbon monoxide, 1,3-butadiene, benzene and lead" - there's still much to be done.

Local Environment minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Although our air is cleaner in overall terms than at any time since the industrial revolution, air pollution is not declining as quickly as expected. We need to move faster and take further measures to move us closer to meeting our objectives.

"Pollutants from our cars, ships and industrial plants are still having a marked affect on our health, reducing the average life expectancy in the UK by eight months.

"This can't continue. The measures outlined in this review would – if implemented – be a significant step forward in improving public health and our environment."

The plan? Well, the government wants "tighter European vehicle emissions standards", more incentives for less polluting vehicles, and less crap pumped out of small combustion plants and ships.

If it succeeds, by 2020 the result will be a three-month reduction in the bit of your life you've already lost to air pollution. That's to say, you'll only die five months earlier than you would have done if you'd been living in the Himalayas.

Defra is now conducting a consultation on the review of its Air Quality Strategy. More details here. ®

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