Car and van emissions are costing the NHS and wider society approximately £6 billion annually due to related health damage, according to research by the University of Oxford and University of Bath.

Researchers produced their report, titled 'Health Costs of Air Pollution from Cars and Vans', ahead of National Clean Air Day which was held on 21st June.

It states that negative health effects related to diesel vehicle emissions are around 20 times higher than electric/hybrid vehicles, and at least five times higher than petrol vehicles.

An estimated 40,000 early deaths are linked to PM2.5 (particulate matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) exposure.

Data from inner cities such as London shows:

• A car's average cost to the NHS and society is £7,714

• Health damage costs from diesel cars and vans £16,424 and £24,555 respectively

• The lowest cost comes from battery electric cars and vans at £827 and £1,443

• Petrol damage costs are £2,327 for cars and £10,101 for vans

• Petrol hybrid vehicles offer damage costs of £1,824

• Almost 90% of the total £6 billion cost to health is attributed to diesel emissions

Chris Large, senior partner at Global Action Plan (which helped coordinate Clean Air Day), said: “This report clearly illustrates the true cost of air pollution from each petrol and diesel car and van, particularly in inner cities.

"Swapping one in four car journeys in urban areas for walking or cycling could save more than £1.1 billion in health damage costs per year.

"Switching one million cars from diesel to electric would save more than £360 million per year in health costs from local air pollution.

Dr Alistair Hunt, environmental economics lecturer at the University of Bath, added: “Our research for the first time illustrates the individual cost that each car and van has on the NHS and wider society.

"Every time these vehicles are driven, they are having a significant  impact on our health, equivalent to £7,714 for an average inner London car over its lifetime.”