A report launched at the first meeting of the London Health Commission, set up by mayor Ken Livingstone, today claims that more people die from transport-related pollution than road accidents in the capital.
Mr Livingstone issued the findings as he hosted the first meeting of the group which brings together members of the London health strategy group, set up by the regional office with members of the Greater London Assembly.
On the move found that 226 people died in road accidents in London in 1998, compared to an estimated 380 deaths caused by transport emissions.
Regional director of public health Dr Sue Atkinson said that many of the casualties of transport-related air pollution were likely to be sick and elderly people for whom existing respiratory conditions had been exacerbated.
Transport has been identified as a key priority of the Commission, which will assess the health implications of nine strategies as they are developed by the GLA.
The report examines the impact of transport on health in London. As well as looking at accidents and the air pollution health effects of transport emissions, it examines noise-related health effects, health benefits from physical activity and the implications of poor access to transport for equality.
It calls for more investigation of the health effects of London-wide policies and an assessment of NHS policies which have an impact on transport. It also calls for further examination of areas like congestion charging, speed reduction policies, new public transport links, and the possible effects of NHS decisions, including hospital closures and 'green transport plans'.
But Dr Atkinson told HSJ that the report showed there was 'no one magic answer' to problems as complex as transport and health.
She said publication of the report today meant it could be fed into GLA's transport strategy, to be published next month. She pointed out that the report hadn't looked at the health benefits associated with transport, and that some of the issues 'included some very interesting arguments: 'It is quite true that if you look at the accident rates, and in particular the fatal accident rates, then they are generally lower in London than elsewhere - and that is probably because traffic moves so much slower - because of congestion. '
Fellow commission member Dr Deirdre Cunningham, director of public health for Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham health authority, said she was hopeful that the commission 'won't be a talking shop, but that it gives us the chance to influence and change things. It is not just about strategies, and nice glossy brochures'.
The health commission brings the GLA into a partnership with the regional office, government office for London, Kings Fund, the Association of London Government and the Social Services Inspectorate.