A sketchy diagnoses

The title of the latest report from the UK chief medical officer is ‘Health Impacts of All Pollution – What Do We Know?’. As it turns out, it seems we know very little, writes David Burrows

The UK’s chief medical officer has just published her assessment of the health impacts of pollution. “There are no aspects of our life that do not have the potential to be impacted by pollution,” says Professor Dame Sally Davies in her foreword. The report covers everything from noise pollution outside schools and the air quality in our cities to pharmaceutical pollution and the growing use of nanoparticles – one of several so-called ‘21st-century chemicals’. 

The newspapers have been homing in on risks from your smartphone. Davies told BBC’s Today radio programme that the light from your mobile at night won’t kill you, but that she’d turn the device over or off. “There are pollutants; it’s part of our economic activity … but we need to get the right balance,” she said. “What is a reasonable risk the public should take? A lot of the time we don’t know enough.” 

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