Bradford on map

Bradford study explores relationship between breathing difficulty attendances and air pollution

Using data from more than 120,000 patients over a period of four years, research funded by the National Institute for Health Research has shown that “the impact of pungent gases on health care use is far greater than previously reported”, and indicates that the delayed impact of exposure to air pollution has been “underestimated”, red-flagging this as a concern after identifying that “patients were still suffering from the impact of pollutants up to 100 days afterwards”.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has shared the results, highlighting how the research forms “one of the biggest studies of its kind globally”. It saw researchers from the Born in Bradford programme analysing data from GP and A&E attendances to look at the relationship between respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD, and noted air pollution, between January 2018 and December 2021.

Findings showed that the condition of up to 35 percent of GP patients and 49 percent of A&E patients visiting for respiratory problems was “linked to days with excessive air pollution”, noting occurrences whereby daily levels of nitrogen dioxide “soared above recommended levels set by the World Health Organisation (WHO)”. The research also placed the combined cost of these visits “higher than previously thought”, at around £2million.

Professor Rosie McEachan, director of the Born in Bradford study and senior author of the report, has commented that these findings should be of particular concern for Bradford, since “air quality tracking discovered that pollution levels were exceeded on an average of 157 days per year – 43 percent of the time”.

Professor McEachan added: “Some 500 people die in Bradford each year from respiratory disease and we know that air pollution is a contributory factor… We think previous research may have underestimated the impact of pollution on health care use, as it mainly focused on what happens immediately – on the day of the high pollution. Our study, which used anonymised data covering the entire Bradford population, broke new ground as for the first time we were able to assess the impacts of pollution that may only present later.”

Last month, we looked at West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s Annual Review for the Improving Population Health Programme, which features six delivery teams including “climate change”, “core determinants of health” and “prevention and targeted prevention”.

We also took a look over the Mayor of London’s independent review which explored how technology can be better utilised “to adapt to climate change”, with the Mayor sharing examples such as the use of hundreds of air quality sensors to provide real-time pollution alerts to residents.