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Truth Behind the Headlines: Three million working days are lost in the UK each year because of pollution

More than three million working days are lost each year because of air pollution, a report has found.


Dirty air contributes to conditions including bronchitis, coronary heart disease and asthma, which all lead to doctor's appointments, hospital stays and sick leave from work. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has calculated the economic impact that would be gained if this ill-health, caused or made worse by air pollution was reduced.


They found that if the UK were to achieve the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation for air quality, the UK economy could benefit by £1.6billion annually, 17,000 deaths could be prevented and 3million working days could be gained each year.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to Breathing life into the UK economy a report by CBI

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

CBI are a business membership organisation, representing 19,000 businesses.  Their economic analysis is conducted by in house economists with experience of conducting market and policy analysis, impact assessments and a reputation for forecasting and understanding the landscape of the UK economy.

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

The report calculates the additional working days that would result from fewer absences due to the worker’s own health or the health of their dependents (e.g. children), as well as fewer days where an employee attends work whilst ill (sometimes referred to as presenteeism). It also estimates the days gained where people wouldn’t be forced to take early retirement or where people of working age have died prematurely.

4. What geographical region does the claim refer to? The UK.
5. What is the sample size of the study?

The report uses data from the Labour Force Survey which surveys 40,000 people across the UK; the CIPD Absence Management survey which gathered data from 1,091 respondents and brings together the findings of multiple other academic studies to quantify the health impacts on productivity of the workforce.

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