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“A blur of soot and smoke…”
When Dickens wrote Hard Times in the middle of the nineteenth century, at the end of the British Industrial Revolution, he described the fictional Coketown as “A blur of soot and smoke…”. One hundred and fifty years later, air pollution in England and Wales remains an important cause of increased mortality. In this issue of Thorax, Anna Hansell and colleagues take us on a journey through four decades of air pollution (see page 330). The study looks at black smoke, SO2 and latterly PM10 exposure in a 1% sample from census data, modeled to place of residence. The effects of air pollution in the 1970s are still apparent in an increased respiratory mortality 4 decades later. The effect of more recent exposure is, unsurprisingly more severe. Later this year the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign (an iniative of the European Respiratory Society & European Lung Foundation supported by the British Thoracic Society) will exhort doctors and the lay public to “Breathe clean air at work rest and play”. …
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