The research team divided the country’s emissions into road transport; power generation; commercial, residential and agricultural sources; and other transportations such as shipping and aviation.
Results showed that car and truck exhaust has been the single greatest contributor to early death, affecting around 3,300 people per year.
The study also revealed that emissions originating elsewhere in Europe have caused an additional 6,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.
MIT’s Steven Barrett and his co-author Steve Yim analyzed the results in light of recent events in the UK and stressed that London is currently in violation of air quality standards.
“We wanted to know if the responsibility to maintain air quality was matched by an ability to act or do something about it,” says Barrett, the Charles Stark Draper Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.
Researchers simulated temperature and wind fields throughout the country using a weather research and forecasting model similar to those used to predict short-term weather.
Results showed that, after road transport, emissions from shipping and aviation were the second greatest contributor to Britons’ death, leaving 1,800 early deaths annually. Power plant emissions ranked third causing an estimated 1,700 premature deaths each year.
Researchers also found that, in London, shipping and aviation emissions had a greater impact on health, possibly due to the proximity of major airports to the city.
“The findings provide a detailed analysis of the sources of air pollution in the country,” said scientific director of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland Fintan Hurley.