A study has revealed that air pollution brought on by exhaust fumes kills more than 5,000 people in the UK every year. The pollution has been linked to the premature onset of a number of diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer.

In contrast, only 1,850 were killed in accidents on British roads in 2010.

There have been no studies conducted on the total annual effects of air pollution on mortality in Australia, but a recent study by NSW Health estimated that approximately 400 Sydneysiders die prematurely from the effects of air pollution every year. The total number of road deaths in Australia in 2010 was 1,259 — with 364 occurring in NSW between July 2010 and July 2011.

In addition to car fumes, it was estimated that pollution created by aeroplanes — as well as the energy and industrial sectors — causes around 19,000 deaths every year in the UK.

The study also suggests that up to 40 percent of the polluting particles are brought into the UK from abroad, rather than being generated locally.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, compared health statistics and clinical studies with models of how gases circulate in the atmosphere.