Traffic fumes could be killing as many people each year as the UK smogs of the 1950s, according to new scientific research.
The report, by Professor George Knox, Emeritus Professor at Birmingham University, draws a direct link between exhaust fumes and pneumonia deaths.
It states that, during an eight-year period between 1996 and 2004, the worst-affected 35 local authorities of Britain experienced 14,000 more deaths from pneumonia than the national average.
These deaths were associated with combustion emissions, as well as deprivation, smoking and binge drinking.
He said: 'High mortality rates were observed in areas with elevated ambient pollution levels. The strongest single effect was an increase in pneumonia deaths. Road transport was the chief source of the emissions.'
Professor Knox said as many of the pneumonia deaths were caused by direct exposure to harmful fumes as in the London smog, which killed 4000 people in the capital in the 1950s.
The study has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.